The former Dallas Cowboys running back is now a successful businessman, entrepreneur, author and philanthropist.
Pro Football Hall of Famer and eight-time Pro Bowler Emmitt Smith will be this year's keynote speaker for Mentor Tech's 15th Annual Celebration Banquet at 7 p.m. April 13 at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center Banquet Hall. The banquet is a chance for parents, alumni and community members to celebrate program participants and graduating seniors for the 2016-17 academic year.
"As is our custom each year, it is our goal to select an accomplished individual to serve as our banquet speaker," said Cory Powell, Mentor Tech program director. "Ultimately, our desire is that the speaker will inspire, motivate and challenge our students and all those in attendance to soar to the highest possible heights, and we are excited to have Emmitt Smith as our speaker this year."
Smith was a first-round pick for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990 NFL Draft. During his 15-year playing career, he set numerous records, some of which still stand today. He is the all-time leading rusher, with 18,355 career rushing yards, and the all-time rushing touchdown leader with164.
Smith was named the league MVP in 1993. He won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys and was named MVP of Super Bowl XVIII against the Buffalo Bills in 1994. He was inducted into Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2005 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Before playing in the NFL, Smith was an All-American at the University of Florida and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. In addition to serving as a football analyst for ESPN and the NFL Network and a guest college football analyst for FOX's BCS National Championship pre-game coverage, Smith has made several TV cameos.
He won the third season of ABC's primetime reality show "Dancing with the Stars" in 2006 and returned for the all-star season of the show in 2012. He also was featured on NBC's genealogy documentary series "Who Do You Think You Are?" in 2010.
"Over the course of the past 14 years, our banquet attendees have heard from renowned educators, accomplished actors and actresses and successful industry leaders," Powell said. "This year is no exception. Emmitt Smith is not only a NFL legend, but also a successful businessman and entrepreneur."
After 13 seasons with the Cowboys and two with the Arizona Cardinals, Smith retired from the NFL on Feb. 3, 2005. He has since led several companies in the real estate, construction and technology sectors under the umbrella of Emmitt Smith Enterprises, including ESmith Legacy, a premier real estate development and asset management firm; EJ Smith Construction, a Dallas-based commercial and civil construction manager and general contractor; E Smith Realty Partners, a national commercial real estate services company; and Prova Group, Inc., a mobile technology company.
His philanthropic efforts through Pat and Emmitt Smith Charities have provided unique experiences and educational opportunities to underserved youth in Dallas and on a national level. Smith also is an author, and in his most recent book, "Game On," describes the how he has found success in football and beyond.
"The annual Mentor Tech banquet provides us with an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of the program's student participants while also honoring the dedicated Texas Tech University System faculty, staff and graduate students who selflessly serve as their mentors," said Paul A. Frazier, associate vice president for the Division of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement. "Emmitt Smith's successes on and off the field are remarkable, and I am excited that he is this year's speaker."
Mentor Tech, formally known as The Lauro Cavazos & Ophelia Powell-Malone Mentoring Program, was established in 2002 and seeks to enhance the quality of the educational experience of students from underrepresented populations through programs, services, advocacy and campus and community involvement. The program provides students with information, encouragement and direction by pairing students with faculty and staff members to help them reach their academic, personal and professional goals.
The program has assisted more than 3,200 students with more than 1,100 of those students graduating from Texas Tech University and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center within the last 11 years.
Tickets for the banquet are $100 each or $150 for VIP; tables of eight cost $1,000 and $1,500 for VIP tables. All VIP purchases include premium seating, passes to the VIP reception and a photo opportunity with Smith. Sponsorship opportunities also are available. Proceeds benefit the Mentor Tech scholarship fund.
The banquet has featured notable speakers, including:
- Tatyana Ali, award-winning actress, singer and advocate
- Chris Gardner, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, author and philanthropist
- Glenda Hatchett, corporate lawyer, judge, author and advocate
- Cornel West, American philosopher, professor, social activist, author and public intellectual
- Hill Harper, film, television and stage actor
- Taraji P. Henson, award-winning actress and film star
- Nia Long, award-winning actress and pop culture icon
Mentor Tech is part of Texas Tech's Division of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement.