It was a long time coming for Terrell Davis. After several years of coming up short, the former Broncos running back will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. Joining past Broncos legends like Shannon Sharpe, Floyd Little and John Elway, Davis has achieved one of football’s highest honors. He now takes his rightful place among the very best to have played the game. With his induction, we can now look back at Davis’ humble beginnings and his rise from little-known, sixth-round draft pick to, quite possibly, the best running back in Broncos history.
It was a winding and bumpy road to the NFL for Davis, who did not have the prototypical journey in getting into the league. A lightly regarded high school recruit at Lincoln High School in San Diego, Davis didn’t get a chance to play in the backfield until his senior year, even playing nose tackle and kicker before getting a chance to be his team’s primary ball-carrier. Earning a scholarship to Long Beach State, Davis redshirted his first season under famed coach, George Allen. When Allen passed away the next season, Davis only had marginal success, running for 262 yards before the program was eliminated due to budgetary reasons.
From there, Davis made his way to the University of Georgia, serving as the primary backup to future NFL running back, Garrison Hearst. With Hearst’s graduation, Davis stepped in as the lead back and ran for a respectable 824 yard during the 1993 season. Looking for a breakout year as a senior, Davis battled a hamstring injury suffered early on that would severely curb his production, netting him only 445 yards and pulling down his draft stock in the process.
Nothing is promised for any low-round pick and Davis entered his first training camp as the Broncos sixth-string running back. Despite encouragements from then position coach, Bobby Turner, Davis almost quit football on Denver’s trip to Japan for a preseason matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Citing frustration with his role on the team, Davis relayed that if the experience didn’t go well he very well may have quit football on his way back home.
Who would have thought that when Davis was inserted on the kickoff coverage team and blew up Tyronne Drakeford on a vicious hit, that the Broncos would be looking at their next starting running back? Head coach Mike Shanahan gave more and more playing time to Davis during the preseason, and Davis made his way up the depth chart. He entered 1995 as the No. 1 tailback and started 14 games. Davis would go on to be the lowest-drafted player to rush for 1,000 yards, ending that year at 1,117 yards rushing. But the best was yet to come.
Read more on Terrell Davis’ path to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in future installments of ‘Canton Bound’ right here on Mile High Sports.