Smith, Castle honored respectively as Player, Coach of the Century

GAINESVILLE – Escambia High School, University of Florida and Dallas Cowboys running back great Emmitt Smith was named Player of the Century tonight by the Florida High School Athletic Association, as part of its “100 Years of Florida High School Football” celebration.

Lakeland High School head coach Bill Castle, meanwhile, was named Coach of the Century.

The awards were presented by the FHSAA during a ceremony honoring the players and coaches of the All-Century Team at halftime of the Class 5A state championship game at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.

Smith, who played for Escambia from 1983-86 and led the Gators to back-to-back state championships in 1984 (Class 3A) and 1985 (Class 4A), holds the Florida high school career rushing record with 8,804 yards on a record 1,127 carries. His 45 100-plus-yard games also is a state record, and ranks second nationally. He scored 106 career touchdowns, which is third on the state’s all-time list.

Smith continued his success at the University of Florida, where he continues to hold school records for rushing touchdowns (37), total touchdowns (36), rushing yards per game (126.7), 100-yard rushing games (23), consecutive 100-yard games (8) and longest rushing play (96 yards).

He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 1990 draft and over the next 13 seasons became a national phenomenon. He helped lead the Cowboys to three Super Bowl championships, lead the NFL in rushing four times, was the league MVP in 1993, was MVP of Super Bowl XXVIII and made eight Pro Bowl appearances. Smith was the first player in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in 11 consecutive seasons. He spent the last two years of his 15-year pro career with the Arizona Cardinals, and finished as the league’s all-time leading rusher with 18,355 yards on a record 4,409 carries.

Smith, who was unable to attend the ceremony because of his responsibilities with ESPN’s NFL Countdown , recorded a message earlier this week that was shown in the stadium.

“It truly is an honor to be selected to the All-Century Team,” Smith said. “When you look at all the players, the great players, who have come from the state of Florida; and to be named, to be mentioned with all of those guys, is truly a great honor.

“I want to thank you for thinking of my in that light. But, most of all, thank you for selecting me as the Player of the Century.”

Castle has compiled a 308-74 record in 32 years as head coach at Lakeland, and has never had a losing season. The Dreadnaughts have won six state championships, including three consecutive state titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006; a state record 53 consecutive victories (the streak was ended earlier this season); and two mythical national championships in 2005 and 2006.

“I am really overwhelmed just to be mentioned in this list of coaches, much less win the overall award,” Castle said. “It is a tremendous honor especially when you think of all the great coaches there have been in the state of Florida.”

Both Smith and Castle are members of the Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

About the FHSAA
The Florida High School Athletic Association is the governing body for interscholastic athletic competition in Florida. It has a membership of more than 750 middle, junior and senior high schools.