In a city that worships Cowboys football and style, Emmitt Smith found a way to meld the pair. Now his fans will find out if he can be a winner at both.
Smith was hoping to add "Dancing With the Stars" champion to his Super Bowl rings and status as the NFL's all-time leading rusher. The results of the ABC-TV dance contest, which pairs competitors of sometimes dubious celebrity and varying skill with professional dancer-partners, were to be announced Wednesday night.
Winning the championship would make Smith the most successful token athlete on the show, surpassing last season's runner-up finish by NFL great Jerry Rice.
"I keep expecting him to mess up, but he's been amazing all season," said Kim Rock, a lifelong Dallas resident and Cowboys fan. "He's got showmanship. It's incredible."
Rock was among about 200 fans who packed a theater at Studio Movie Grill on Tuesday to watch the final competition, which pitted Smith and partner Cheryl Burke against actor Mario Lopez and Karina Smirnoff.
Outside the theater, Smith's relatives and friends handed out souvenir red towels for fans to wave and glowing "Vote for Emmitt" buttons to clasp on their shirts.
Smith, who remains among the Cowboys' biggest stars in Dallas, says he never worried that taking a big leap into the pop culture of reality television would threaten how people remember him from the NFL.
"I've been very conscious about the type of projects I undertake," he said in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this month. "My thought process is to try to protect my brand and try to protect the quality of the brand I've established."
Millicent Finney, a longtime friend of Smith's wife, Pat, doesn't think going from football player to sequined-shirt dancer was that far of a stretch for Smith.
"Dallas has always loved him," said Finney, handing fans souvenir towels before they settled in to watch Tuesday's show. "Emmitt's not afraid to take a risk, and I think people really admire him for that."