Back in the summer, when we lined up Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith for our cover feature Celebrated Weekend, we grappled with the timing of the story: When would Smith break Walter Payton’s all-time NFL rushing record? And wouldn’t it be great to have him on our cover when he did? When the season began, we watched every game, tallying the yards and speculating along with sports fans everywhere exactly which game it would happen in.

In the end, we decided it wasn’t much of a gamble: Smith is the perfect guide to Dallas anytime, record or not. And what a great guy: In our September 1 issue, associate editor James Mayfield talked with Smith about his thoughts on breaking the record, and his responses would warm the heart of even the staunchest Cowboys naysayer. He told James, “To me, Walter Payton is the consummate father, family man, and dedicated professional. Even if I am able to pass him on the rushing list, I will always be striving to achieve the standards that he set as a man.”

Emmitt proved to be a great guy at our photo shoot as well. With most busy celebrities, the monumental task of trying to schedule times for interviews and photography sessions can be a lesson in patience, flexibility, and speed (often we have limited time with a celebrity). But when Smith met with our crew at the Cowboys’ practice facilities in Valley Ranch for the photo shoot, he was gracious, relaxed, chatty … and gave us all the time we needed.

Check out his insider’s tour of Dallas (on page 22 in the print edition of American Way ironically the same number on his jersey) and see what you think. Of course, there’s much more, including our holiday gift guide. Compiled by senior editor Richelle Thomson, associate editor Mayfield, and writer Ben Hewitt, the feature offers neat gift ideas for everyone on your list.

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