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Tuesday January 1, 2013 Emmitt Smith check in at Sugar Bowl walk-thru

Emmitt and me NEW ORLEANS -- Gator greats Emmitt Smith and Danny Wuerffel will represent Florida during the ceremonial toss of the coin Tuesday before the 79th Sugar Bowl. Louisville, meanwhile, will roll out a couple legends of its own in former linebacker Tom Jackson and -- get this -- Muhammad Ali.

Smith, the Gators and Dallas Cowboys icon and all-time rusher in NFL history, attended UF’s walk-through Monday at the Superdome and addressed the players during practice.

Before the walk-through, Smith visited with GatorZone.com.

[Note: I did not ask him about Tony Romo]

GZ: What do you think of the Gators being back in what their fans would think is their rightful spot near the top of the polls and the bowl bigtime?

EMMITT: “We’ve been in our rightful spot since I left college. It’s just continuing on and carrying on a legacy that’s been there, and just building upon that rich tradition. It’s a wonderful thing to see it. Yeah, we’ve had some lean years, just a few in there, but we’ve had some plentiful years. To see it continue on is a wonderful thing. It makes all the alumni proud.”

GZ: What are your thoughts on the job Will Muschamp has done?

EMMITT: “I think he’s done a helluva job. He really has. He’s come in and turned the program around and got the guys believing in his system, playing for one another and playing for him. That’s what you’re supposed to do -- inspire your players. I think he’s done a wonderful job with that, especially considering the odds that were against him and the projection of where this team was supposed to be going into the fall. He was coming into a situation with the letdown of Urban [Meyer] leaving and depletion of some talent, but at the end of the day he’s more than held his own. He’s excelled.”  

GZ: A year ago, this program was in Jacksonville at 6-6 and fighting to finish with a winning record. Today, a BCS game and shot to finish in the top two or three in the country. Tough to see that coming?

EMMITT: “I can understand it was difficult for people to see it. Anytime you bring in a new coach there’s a period of transition that takes a little longer than others. But when you’re able to come in and inspire players to another level of greatness and get them to buy into your system and earn their trust -- which is a tough thing to do for coaches ... . I think he’s been very consistent with his words, his actions, what he expects and his standards. Very consistent. He has not wavered one way, and I think that’s what the players have bought into. He’s shown he’s going to be the coach and that he means what he says, does what he says and if you fall in line we’re going places. That’s the way it works. And the results are starting to show on the football field -- much faster than everybody anticipated, definitely.”

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