Emmitt Smith rushes to Tony Romo's defense

Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith is ready for the questions.

As he and his wife, Pat, head to the Omni Dallas Hotel for the fourth annual Emmitt Smith Celebrity Invitational weekend, he knows the question will be:

"Should the Dallas Cowboys have given quarterback Tony Romo a six-year contract extension worth $108 million?"

"I think they did the right thing retaining him, because you can't find anyone better out there," said Smith, who played 13 seasons with the Cowboys. "Then again, it's not really up to me to give that kind of money. I only have so much time to focus on such things!"

Smith is joking a little bit, but it's true. Smith retired from the NFL in 2005 and has worked as an analyst for the NFL Network, won the third season of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" in 2006, became a real estate developer and created his own foundation.

But he does still root on the Cowboys and calls them "we" in conversations.

"I think Romo is a good quarterback. He has receivers that can make plays. And the running game also can be effective," Smith said. "I just think they need more help with the supporting cast up front. They need better blocking and better protection. I think Jerry Jones and the family have all that covered."

And that leads us back to this evening's "Dancing With the Smiths" gala dinner and then an 18-hole celebrity golf tournament on Saturday in McKinney. Michael Irvin, Marshall Faulk and Marcus Allen are among the celebrities attending. The weekend has raised more than $1 million for Pat & Emmitt Smith Charities, which partners with several nonprofits to provide educational and enrichment opportunities for underserved children.

"We're just trying to show deserving children that their world is bigger than their own ghetto," Smith said. "They can be productive citizens and fit in this world. We're just trying to help change some lives."

Smith said he saw the ESPN "Outside the Lines" story on athletes and charities lacking standards.

Smith said he can't speak for other athletes' involvement in charities but can see the gray area.

"It's not easy to do charitable work -- hoping to raise significant dollars -- and balance the operational expenses," Smith said. "Anyone with a platform -- I hope -- is trying to do the best they can. I was blessed to be able to provide for my family and help provide for others. My question to everyone is: What are you doing to make a difference in the lives of other people?"