American football player
Terrell Davis's exuberant seven year NFL career was marked by record-breaking accomplishments and debilitating migraines and injuries. Davis's speed and tenacity helped John Elway and the Denver Broncos win two consecutive Super Bowl titles, first in 1998, then again in 1999. Among his many feats are an amazing 2,008 rushing yard season in 1998 and a Super Bowl MVP. In August 2002, Davis retired due to an arthritic condition in his left knee.
In the Lincoln Park neighborhood of San Diego, California, rife with crime, gangs and drugs, Davis learned to keep hope alive. He suffered migraines from the age of seven. "There wasn't medication or anything we could give him, just the tea," Kateree Davis confided to the Sporting News. "I knew he was strong, but he was so brave, too. After a while, he learned he just had to be patient until the pain went away." Davis's patience proved to be a great asset to his record-setting career in the
NFL. His seven year NFL career with the Denver Broncos was marked by spectacular plays and crippling injuries.
As a kid Davis played in the Pop Warner youth football league. He was such an enthusiast that he continued playing with them until he was a freshman in high school, often going to extreme measures to stay under the weight limit. However, when Davis was in the ninth grade, he lost his father to lupus, an immune deficiency disease, and for a time his love of the sport was extinguished. He had a hard time keeping up with his school work, even flunking gym class, in the first two years of high school. As a junior, Davis transferred from Morse High School to Lincoln High School, the same school from which legendary running back Marcus Allen graduated. The new environment lifted his spirits somewhat and by the next year he was a star football player dominating the fullback, nose guard, and kicker positions.
Davis's older brother, Reggie Webb, was a tailback at U.C. Long Beach and convinced his coaches to offer Terrell a football scholarship. At that time the former Washington Redskins coach George Allen was coaching the Long Beach team. Davis had the opportunity to work with the legendary coach for only one season. When Allen died, the Long Beach campus eliminated its football organization and Davis transferred to the University of Georgia. Due to a twice-torn hamstring, Davis's college statistics didn't reflect his ability. During the 1995 NFL draft, Davis played board games at his girlfriend's house while 21 running backs were chosen ahead of him. When the Denver Broncos picked him in the sixth round (he was the 196th player overall) he took the news as a challenge.
With no injuries holding him back and a long way to go to earn his coaches' respect, Davis started Broncos training camp hungry to show everyone that he belonged in the starting lineup. "Being drafted in the sixth-round was like a slap in the face for me," Davis admitted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "But deep down I knew I wasn't a sixth-round pick. I came here [to training camp] with something to prove." Bobby Turner, the Broncos running back coach, told Sporting News, "If there had been 20 running backs he would have been 20th." By the end of training season, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Davis has surprised me. He is really competing right now for a starting job, and that doesn't happen that often with a sixth-round draft choice and a guy who really didn't carry the ball a lot his senior year."
Denver played Davis as a starting running back and he finished the 1995 season with 1,117 yards on the ground, to become the lowest draft pick ever to rush for over 1,000 yards. His teammates voted him most valuable offensive player over their celebrated quarterback, John Elway . At the end of the 1995 season the Broncos rewrote Davis's $131,000-a-year rookie contract, raising it to $6.8 million for five years.
|1972||Born in San Diego, California|
|1979||Suffers his first migraine headache|
|1985||Father dies of lupus|
|1990||Receives football scholarship to U.C. Long Beach|
|1992||Transfers to University of Georgia|
|1994||Cousin and close friend, Jemaul Pennington, is shot to death in San Diego|
|1995||Drafted by the Denver Broncos in the sixth round|
|1995||Becomes the lowest drafted running back in NFL history to gain over 1,000 yards in his first season and is named most valuable offensive player by his teammates|
|1996||Contract is renegotiated for 5 years and $6.8 million|
|1996||Named NFL Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press|
|1997||Sets franchise records for rushing with 1,750 yards, and 15 rushing touchdowns|
|1998||Rushes for a record 2008 yards. Wins MVP award for Super Bowl XXXII rushing for 157 yards and 3 touchdowns|
|1999||Key player in Broncos' second consecutive Super Bowl victory|
|2000||Suffers season ending knee injury. Recuperates through off-season|
|2001||Sprains ankle in first game of season. Misses entire season due to several injuries|
|2002||Degenerative knee condition diagnosed. Goes on injured reserve list. Retires from football|
In the 1996 season Davis rushed for an incredible 1,538 yards, second in the league. He missed part of the following season with a separated right shoulder but returned to help the Broncos beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in a wild card game for a play-off spot. The Broncos went on to win Super Bowl XXXII, hosted in San Diego, Davis's hometown.
Davis etched his name in Super Bowl history, rushing for a record 157 yards and scoring three touchdowns. However, he was almost sidelined with a crushing migraine that blurred his vision. Davis took a newly released migraine medication and was able to play again. He was named the Super Bowl MVP.
After the Super Bowl, Davis appeared in his second consecutive Pro Bowl. In July of 1998, he re-signed his contract with the Broncos, becoming the highest paid running back in the NFL at $56.1 million over nine years.
In 1998, The Broncos were unstoppable, winning Super Bowl XXXIII. Davis was named the season MVP and top offensive player of year. He had a record setting season, becoming only the fourth player in history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a single season. Davis appeared in his third straight Pro Bowl.
Several injuries, including a torn knee ligament, put Davis out of commission for much of the 1999 and 2000 seasons. He rushed for a career low 211 yards in 1999. In the 2001 season Davis recuperated somewhat rushing for 701 yards. However, his knee injury was diagnosed as a degenerative condition that despite numerous operations did not show signs of improving. "It is tough to realize I am not going to play anymore," Davis said in an August 2002 interview. "My mind is telling me one thing, but my knees are telling me something else." "It's very unfortunate that Terrell hurt his knees because he could have been one of the best, if not the best, running backs in NFL history," former Broncos quarterback John Elway told the Denver Post. In August 2002 Davis was put on the injured reserve list and decided to officially retire.
Terrell Davis had a brilliant if short career. He had a three-year streak from 1995 to 1998 that puts him among the top running backs in NFL history. There is no question that he is one of the most talented players ever to play the position. However, the jury is still very much out on whether he warrants a spot in the Hall of Fame. Many argue that the numbers speak for themselves: a 2,008 yard season in 1997, two Super Bowl rings, and 4.87 yards per carry when he was uninjured added to his MVP award make him a shoo-in for the Hall.
|DEN: Denver Broncos.|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1995||Named Rookie of the Year by Football Digest. Voted Broncos' Offensive MVP by teammates|
|1997-99||Pro Bowl selection|
|1998||Super Bowl MVP|
Others contend that the mark of a Hall of Famer is longevity and that Davis, despite his exuberant performances during his three uninjured seasons, does not qualify. However, no one can debate Davis's spirit.
"Davis Holds Out Hope for One More Comeback." Columbian (August 21, 2002): B6.
CBSSportsline.com. http://www.cbs.sportsline.com/ (December 3, 2002).
DenverPost.com. "Terrell Davis: 'Keep Hope Alive.'" http://www.denverpost.com/ (December 3, 2002).
Galenet.com. Biography Resource Center. http://galenet.galegroup.com/ (December 3, 2002).
The Official Terrell Davis Website. http://www.td30.com/bio.html (December 02, 2002).
Sketch by Paulo Nunes-Ueno
Davis, Terrell 1972–
Terrell Davis 1972–
Professional football player
Although Terrell Davis was the twenty-first college running back to be drafted by a National Football League (NFL) team in 1995, he quickly established himself as one of professional football’s leading rushers during his rookie season. His output on the gridiron improved steadily during each of his first three years in the league, reaching a career peak in 1998 when his stellar performance helped Denver secure its first Super Bowl victory. “There’s not an area in his game that isn’t strong,” remarked Denver coach Mike Shanahan in an article in Sports Illustrated that highlighted Davis’s reputation for having soft hands as well as being an excellent blocker.
Davis got a relatively late start in football, not joining a team until his junior year in high school after he transferred from Morse High School to Lincoln Prep in San Diego, California. By his senior year he was a star, excelling at fullback, nose guard, kicker, and three other positions on a team that he helped lead to a 12-2 record. He also set the Lincoln Prep record in the discus throw as a member of the track team. Davis’ older brother, Reggie Webb, was a tailback at Long Beach State University at the time, and he persuaded his school to grant Davis a scholarship.
During his career at Long Beach State, Davis flourished under the guidance of coaching legend George Allen, who had many successful years at the helm of the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Near the end of Davis’s freshman year, however, Allen died of heart failure and Long Beach State eliminated its football program due to budget concerns. The University of Georgia and the University of California at Los Angeles encouraged Davis to join their teams, and Davis chose Georgia. During his first season there, Davis played in the shadow of Garrison Hearst, one of the leading rushers in college football and a candidate for the Heisman Trophy. After Hearst graduated in 1992, Davis became Georgia’s top running back and logged 824 rushing yards the following season.
Davis’ senior season at Georgia got off to a rocky start when he aggravated a tear in his hamstring muscle against Tennessee early in the season, which took him out of the lineup for three games. His absence decreased his overall rushing total to 445 yards while also giving Davis a reputation for being injury-prone, according to Austin Murphy in a 1996 issue of Sports Illustrated.
Career: Starred at six positions on football team in high school; set high school record in discus throw; received football scholarship from Long Beach State University, 1990; transferred to the University of Georgia, 1991; drafted in sixth round of NFL draft by Denver Broncos, 1995; became lowest drafted player in National Football League (NFL) history to rush for over 1,000 yards in rookie year (1,117 yards), 1995; was top rusher in American Football Conference (AFC) and second leading rusher in NFL, 1996; led NFL in first downs (108), 1996; set single-game record for most rushing touchdowns (3) in Super Bowl, 1998; established The Terrell Davis Foundation for Migraine Education and Treatment, 1998.
Awards and honors: NFL Rookie of the Year, Football Digest, 1995; All-Rookie Team, Pro Football Weekly, Football News, 1995; AFC Rushing Crown, 1996, 1997; Pro Bowl selection, 1996, 1997; Most Valuable Player, Super Bowl XXXII, 1998.
Addresses: Home —Aurora, CO; Professional —co Denver Broncos, 13655 Broncos Parkway, Englewood, CO 80112.
This reputation hurt Davis’ standing in the NFL draft. Eventually, the Denver Broncos selected him in the sixth round. Following his selection, Davis remarked to the CNN/Sports Illustrated Web site, “I was surprised to be drafted, because in college I didn’t have the stats.”
Davis entered training camp in the summer of 1995 injury-free and determined to prove that he was an NFL-caliber player. His hard work paid off when the Broncos named him their starting running back for the season’s opening game. With Davis at running back, the Broncos possessed the potent running attack that they had previously lacked. Davis started in 14 games during the 1995 season, carried the ball 237 times, averaged 4.7 yards per run, scored eight touchdowns, and finished his rookie season with a remarkable total of 1,117 rushing yards. His teammates selected him as their Most Valuable Offensive Player in 1995, and he was also voted to the All-Rookie Teams of Pro Football Weekly and Football News, two respected football periodicals.
Following his phenomenal rookie season, Davis signed a lucrative new five-year contract with the Broncos that was worth $6.8 million. He continued his success during the 1996 season. That year, he rushed for a total of 1,538 yards and set a Denver Broncos record for rushing touchdowns with 13. Davis also proved to be a threat as a receiver, catching 35 passes for 301 yards.
Continuing to improve his skills as a running back, Davis had his best year yet in 1997. He rushed for an amazing career-high total of 1,750 yards, which led the American Football Conference (AFC). He was also second in the AFC and in the NFL in both rushing attempts (369) and touchdowns (15). Davis’s performance played a key role in Denver’s journey to the Super Bowl, and his impressive statistics landed him in the Pro Bowl—the NFL’s All-Star game—for the second consecutive season.
During the 1997 playoffs, Davis rushed for 581 yards and scored an NFL-record eight playoff touchdowns. These numbers earned Davis the all-time rushing record for a single season, eclipsing the previous record held by Eric Dickerson. In Super Bowl XXXII against the Green Bay Packers, Davis rushed for 157 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Broncos to a 31-24 victory. Davis’ performance was especially impressive considering that a hard tackle in the first quarter triggered a migraine headache that put him out of action for nearly half the game. According to People magazine, Davis had been plagued with migraine headaches since the age of seven when he began playing Pop Warner football. He usually avoided them by taking preventive medication before each game. In his autobiography TD: Dreams in Motion, Davis admitted that he had forgotten to take his medication on time before the Super Bowl. During the second half of the Super Bowl, however, Davis was able to return and rushed for almost 100 yards to help secure a victory for his team.
No other player had ever rushed for three touchdowns in a Super Bowl, and Davis’s performance earned him Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors. With typical modesty, Davis credited his offensive line and quarterback John Elway for helping him win the Most Valuable Player award. “Without them, I don’t think any of this would be possible,” Davis stated in a 1998 Shine article. “Me, I’m just a piece of the puzzle. I guess I lucked up and got this trophy today. It could have gone to any of those guys on offense,” he continued.
During his superb career with the Denver Broncos, Davis has set 47 team records. In July of 1998, he became the NFL’s highest-paid running back when he signed a nine-year contract with the Broncos worth $56.1 million, including a $ll-million signing bonus. Denver had agreed to renegotiate Davis’s contract if he had two consecutive seasons where he rushed for at least 1,500 yards. Davis fulfilled this requirement by rushing for 1,538 yards in 1996 and 1,750 yards in 1997. Barring serious injury, Davis seems destined to become one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.
Davis, Terrell, and Adam Schefter, TD: Dreams in Motion, HarperCollins, 1998.
People, December 23, 1996, p. 97.
Shine, February 1998.
Sports Illustrated, October 28, 1996, p. 54; November 25, 1996, p. 28; September 29, 1997, p. 72.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from the National Football League and CNN/Sports Illustrated Web sites on the Internet.