‘CSI: Cyber’ gives Emmitt Smith chance to star on TV screen

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Emmitt Smith has always done his job one way.

The former Dallas Cowboys star spends his time studying homework so he can thrive when the cameras roll.

While the NFL’s career rushing leader has long dazzled fans with his fancy footwork on and off the field, he didn’t have to do much dancing to find a fitting role, playing himself in a cameo appearance on Sunday night’s episode of “CSI: Cyber.”

“Emmitt ought to do Emmitt pretty well,” he joked in a recent telephone interview with The Associated Press. “It really doesn’t compare to football in terms of the physical activity. Mentally, it’s kind of the same because in football there’s terminology you have to learn. Here, you have to remember lines.”

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And get in sync with his “teammates” on the set.

That’s not always easy for someone who spent so much of his life in weight rooms, meeting rooms and film rooms rather than acting classes. But those who have worked with the charismatic Smith see how his experiences have prepared the former “Dancing With The Stars” champion well for this part.

“Once you get into a rhythm and you do rehearsals, it’s like putting on a glove,” said Charley Koontz, one of the show’s co-stars and a San Francisco 49ers fan. “But that smile just lights up the set. He became the star of the show.”

Even if he only played a bit part.

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Smith appears in an early scene, signing autographs on the streets of chilly Washington. Shad Moss’ character, Brody Nelson, recognizes the former running back. Moss, the rapper once known as Bow Wow, and Koontz’s character, Daniel Krumitz, strike up a short conversation with Smith until they receive a phone call from headquarters where the show’s other primary characters, played by Patricia Arquette, Ted Danson and James Van Der Beek, work.

Smith found fans on the fictitious streets of Washington, Dallas’ biggest rival, and even more inside the studio.

“He’s incredibly at ease and comfortable, and the minute guys yelled action, he went right into the scene,” said executive producer Pam Veasey, a Texas native who rooted for the Cowboys and Houston Oilers. “There were no overwhelming nerves or trouble with his lines.”

Football players, in particular, have a long history of adding star power to television and movies.

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Hall of Famers Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson and Bubba Smith, ex-Chiefs star Fred Williamson, former Lions star Alex Karras and former Rams star Fred Dryer all had successful second careers in Hollywood. Even quarterbacks Brett Favre and Tom Brady have dabbled in acting. In October, Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin, two Hall of Fame receivers, appeared on CBS shows “Hawaii Five-O” and “Criminal Minds.”

Now it’s Smith’s turn, though he’s not ready to make a full-time commitment yet.

“It’s fun, it’s cool, but I don’t know if I really look at it that way or not,” Smith said. “You don’t really know if it’s for you till you go through a whole movie or a whole story line.”