With more variety than a United Nations Conference, the crowd at the 10th annual Emmitt Smith Celebrity Gala was celebrity totality. There's Billy Dawson, a country singer from Nashville; “Kid” Reid of Kid ‘n Play hip-hop fame; an elite group of NFL Hall of Fame running backs: Curtis Martin, Eddie George, Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson; Kaliegh Garris, 2019 Miss Teen USA; six-time NBA All-Star Jermaine O'Neal; retired MLB pitcher John Rocker; and Cheaters co-founder and original host Tommy Habeeb. And for icing on the cake — Post Malone appears in a video shout-out to Emmitt from the Australia leg of his tour.
Then the entire Smith family dances to Postie’s “Congratulations” and the gala’s over.
Another key theme for the evening was genuine compassion. Perhaps former Dallas Mavericks guard Jim Jackson said it best: “Emmitt doesn’t have to do this, and that’s the best kind of charity.”
The event raised more than $1 million dollars for the Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities. A large chunk of that is earned during a live auction where one item alone goes for $70,000. Heath Hale, of Cowboy Auctioneer leads a team of booted fundraisers.
“Our goal is to give the crowd a good time and we want to raise at least $250,000 tonight,” Hale told the Observer.
They set their goal and smashed it. The room was generous.
Fun facts were in every corner of the Omni Frisco ballroom. Tommy Habeeb said Dallas Cowboys players worked as security guards on episodes of Cheaters. Kid Reid is a big fan of Ojos Locos Sports Cantina, “I’m not a classy guy,” he jokes.
And Reid’s also a stand-up comic — he'll be performing at Hyenas Comedy Club in Fort Worth on May 17. Jermaine O’Neal is such a big Cowboys fan that after 19 years in the NBA he moved to Dallas because of the Cowboys. He’s a season ticket holder and calls his fandom an “emotional attachment.”
In an evening with many special moments, Dirk Nowitzki’s Roger Staubach Award acceptance speech was a gem. “Roger, you were a little before my time, but I heard a lot about this man,” Nowitzki said with a smile, with Roger and Marianne Staubach looking on.
Nowitzki chipped in as well, late in the evening, with a $22,000 donation. LaDainian Tomlinson offered a similar jab at Emmitt Smith with a funny story about meeting Smith as a 12-year-old.
“It was a Jay Novacek Football Camp and I saw that Emmitt was going to be there," Tomlinson added. "That’s all I thought about, was meeting Emmitt. Then I finally got the chance to meet him and couldn’t believe how small he was. I thought, if he can play in the NFL at that size then I can too."
The overwhelming narrative at the event was generosity. Two-time Super Bowl champion with the Cowboys, Kenny “The Shark” Gant made the trip from Tampa to support the event. Ron Prowell and Rebecca Lopez sit next to Emmitt and Pat at church and were supporting the event for the second consecutive year. When pressured to comment on Emmitt’s singing at church, Prowell would only offer this, “He lets the choir do the work.”