IRVING, Texas – Emmitt Smith grasped a sledgehammer and tore down a wall Tuesday, though it had nothing to do with his construction company.
The former Cowboys running back teamed with Cowboys' Executive Vice President Charlotte Jones Anderson and Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck at The Salvation Army in Arlington to launch the construction of the Youth Education Town center by knocking down walls full of negative words and phrases symbolizing the issues inhibiting children from reaching their potential.
"It's going to be the biggest and the baddest Youth Education Town ever built in this country," Cluck said. "I promise you that."
The Youth Education Town is a legacy project of Super Bowl XLV to renovate the Salvation Army's center in Arlington. The project, funded mostly by grants from the NFL and the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Arlington Youth Foundation, will add 8,000 square feet of space and offer programs focused on education, health and the arts.
Cluck said the building will be dedicated to the education of those most needy in the North Texas community and will be a "hallmark for Arlington," allowing children to be educated not only in typical academic subjects, but also in music and the arts.
"I'm all about hope and I'm all about promise," Cluck said. "Because these kids have had little hope or have had promises that have not been fulfilled, this is the perfect spot for them to come for help."
The demolition participants knocked down a wall to reveal a second wall with more positive phrases, including "active minds" and "healthy bodies."
"What we're doing here today is creating opportunities for youth here in this community, as well as being a catalyst for those around the country to look at this Youth Education Town to model itself after," Smith said. "We have put in tremendous work. A lot of folks here have come together as a family to try to make sure this really happens in the best way possible."
Smith, the chairman of the North Texas Youth Education Town, said The Salvation Army holds a special meaning to him. He began his career in Pensacola, Fla., where he played organized football for the first time with The Salvation Army.
He said his dream of becoming an NFL star began with an opportunity created by The Salvation Army, and he wants other children to be presented with similar chances.
"I can personally testify that The Salvation Army itself helps build character, sharpens kids' untapped skills and abilities, and will help them realize their true potential," Smith said. "Now I truly have a chance to give back to this community in a mighty, mighty way by being the chairman of this Youth Education Town."
Anderson waited a long time for the moment she could help introduce the Youth Education Town, and she said she's proud of the due diligence put into the construction of the project.
"We wanted to do things Texas style, so we wanted to make sure that it was big and bold and helped as many people as we possibly could," Anderson said. "I think we have the right plan and the right formula to make that happen."