Despite being one of the most decorated NFL players to touch the field, winning three Super Bowls, and breaking countless records, Emmitt Smith says his greatest achievement is his children. The father of five said he always recognized the importance of having a strong patriarch in the family structure, particularly in Black communities.

“I think every father should take his role extremely serious,” the former Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals running back shared with Essence. “For me, speaking as an African American man in society, seeing the sacrifices my dad and grandfather did for our family—I have tremendous respect for them.”

He said that growing up watching his father work hard as a bus driver set the tone for the type of man he wanted to be for his own wife and children.

“He taught me the value of work ethic, and that family should be put first no matter what.”

That’s why he said his newest partnership was in alignment with his core values. The NFL legend recently announced his partnership with IHOP to spread the word about Pan Coins, the brand’s first-ever loyalty program. Smith said that the program is a great way to encourage families to spend quality time with each other, something that’s especially important following the last few years.

“IHOP is stepping in to help create those opportunities for fathers to not only celebrate their families, but to enjoy themselves in the process,” he said.

Per a news release, the PanCoin is a crypto pancake that lives in the IHOP mobile app and on It was developed by the brand in its research to find what rewards would truly bring happiness to IHOP guests. Guests who sign up for an account will also receive free pancakes on their birthday, exclusive offers, rewards that stack up, secret menu offerings and the ability to Pay ‘N Go using their own devices from the mobile app.

Smith also pointed out that the program couldn’t have come at a better time.

“This Fathers Day feels a bit different after all the stuff {Black men} have gone through {at a national level} recently,” he said, alluding to the social justice uprising following the murders of Black men by police.

“Black men carry a lot of weight on their shoulders in terms of trying to not only find their footing in society that has historically not allowed them in certain circles, but even through the ranks of life, just like women.”

He says he appreciates any Black man that is trying his best to be a good father because it’s not easy.

“A guy that truly understands his role and his responsibility not only to produce the child, but also to take care of the children and to cover and to care for them and to clothe them and to make sure that they have not only the proper guidance, but also the proper discipline, I commend him.”