INDIANAPOLIS —Let's just say Emmitt Smith knows a thing or two about quality running backs in the National Football League.
So when Smith says Edgerrin James should be included in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018, one would hope those responsible for voting would listen.
James, the greatest running back in Indianapolis Colts history, today is one of 15 Modern-Era finalists up for consideration for this year's class, which will formally be enshrined into Canton in August.
Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher with 18,355 yards, recently listed James among the five Modern-Era finalists he'd choose for this year's class, along with linebacker Ray Lewis, wide receivers Terrell Owens and Randy Moss and cornerback Everson Walls.
James immediately lit up the league when the Colts selected him fourth overall out of the University of Miami in 1999, leading the NFL in rushing his first year and earning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors with 1,553 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, as well as four touchdowns through the air.
He'd continue playing a major role in one of the NFL's greatest well-rounded offensive attacks of all-time.
James, who played in Indy through 2005, leads the franchise in career rushing yards (9,226), rushing touchdowns (64), rushing yards per game average (96.1), rushing yards in a single season (1,709 in 2000) and most seasons with 1,000 rushing yards (five).
He would wrap up his career with the Arizona Cardinals (2006-08) and the Seattle Seahawks (2009), and now sits at No. 13 on the league's all-time rushing list with 12,246 yards. His 15,610 total yards from scrimmage ranks 11th all-time among running backs, and is more than Hall of Fame backs Eric Dickerson, Jerome Bettis and Jim Brown.
Smith said he believes James, who was voted a finalist this year for the second time in three years, has everything needed to be considered a Hall of Famer.
"It's like playing in the Super Bowl — either you win or you lose," Smith said. "Ain't no in-between in it."
Smith said James and the other finalists are assuredly going through a wide range of emotions today as they remain hopeful for a call from Canton.
"It's exciting and it's nerve-wracking at the same time," Smith said. "The excitement part is knowing that you have an opportunity to become part of a very elite group of athletes — very few that are in the Hall of Fame right now out of the 20,000-plus that have played the game. But yet, at the same time, it's nerve-wracking because it can be disappointing."