Upon learning of Friday’s announcement that Terrell Davis would become the newest member of the Ring of Fame, I couldn’t help but look back at the day he walked away — Aug. 20, 2002. A night earlier, Davis walked onto the field in a Broncos uniform for the final time, listening to one more standing ovation from the home fans before he would leave the field for good as a result of knee injuries — the only opposition he could not outrun.
When Davis said farewell, I had only been in Denver a month, barely enough time to appreciate what Davis accomplished here — aside from viewing from points afar such as Tampa, Seattle, Connecticut and Ft. Lauderdale. But T.D. was so exquisitely productive that you didn’t have to be at Mile High Stadium to appreciate his. accomplishments.
So rather than trying to write something new today about Davis, here’s what I wrote the day he held his final press conference as a Bronco. I think it still applies — except for the fact that my desk has moved.
By Andrew Mason
strong>ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The home of DenverBroncos.com, and my home away from home for the hours I spend working to help bring you coverage of the team, is a desk situated beneath a skylight in an open area of the team’s Dove Valley training facility.
That’s not what stands out about the office, though. It would be a desk indistinguishable from cubicles in any other white-collar workplace, were it not for the image that sits on the wall behind me — the one which greets me every morning as I walk up the stairs and to my desk.
Staring at me, four feet high, is the image of Terrell Davis running in Super Bowl XXXII. Around him is open field save for the intrusion of Green Bay Packers safety Eugene Robinson.
It’s Davis’ eyes that one immediately zones in on. They’re wide open, but they’re not looking straight ahead — they’re glancing right at Robinson, as if No. 30 is prepared to eschew the open path and take the more challenging route, bowling over one of the game’s elite safeties.
Since it comes from the climactic game of that championship season, it reminds me of all that can be accomplished through dozens of people pulling in the same direction, united for a common purpose. But seeing Davis every morning also reminds me of the power and necessity of pressing onward through struggle. Most of us have to battle little ailments at times in order to muddle through the day — a chest cold, a swelling ankle, a headache induced by skipping the morning cup of coffee.
Davis did, too, on what turned out to be the pinnacle moment of his professional life. Migraine headaches have stopped many a person from performing at their best. A migraine turned Scottie Pippen, selected as one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, from a 20-point scorer into a man who couldn’t even score a point in a season-ending loss.
It didn’t deter Davis. One-hundred and fifty-seven yards later, he’d earned MVP honors after carrying the Broncos to their first world championship. It was his shining moment, but it was also just another day at the office, a fourth consecutive 100-yard playoff game in a streak that would eventually extend to seven games, unmatched in NFL annals.
The fact that Davis would subsequently spend nearly three years attempting one comeback after another through leg injuries, ligament tears and ankle problems shouldn’t come as a surprise. Many might give up after just a second major injury. It was only when the injuries turned from reparable to chronic — as they did with the arthritis setting in his left knee — that Davis had to walk away, perhaps for good.
Like many potential endings, it’s sad. But it’s also tinged with the blessing of the fact that he did have his days in the sun — days which so few who embark on a professional football career can ever know. It’s also sad because there are many who love the Broncos and who love football who will no longer have the chance to see No. 30 play in person — myself included.
I’ve been blessed to have witnessed with my own eyes all of the great players of the last generation of professional football. I’ve watched John Elway toss a touchdown pass, Walter Payton stutter-step and hop while looking for a hole behind the Bears’ offensive line, and seen Barry Sanders break away on dazzling runs through the secondary — something I witnessed all too often as I whiled away the Sundays of my teenage years at the late Tampa Stadium.
I never saw T.D., though. My path and the Broncos — at least with Davis in the lineup — never crossed.
I wanted to see Terrell make one breakway run. I wanted to see No. 30 turn a play that would typically die at the line of scrimmage into an gallop that transformed the outcome of a game, and perhaps a season with it.
So if you saw T.D. run in person, be thankful. You witnessed a man whose name will be whispered with those of the greats, a man who was not only at the top of his form, but was the best in the game, for a short time — but still long enough to bring a championship to Denver. Fortunately, he had enough time to show a three-year of greatness that puts him in elite company.
I may not have seen him play an NFL game in person. But I’ll always have the four-foot high picture behind my desk to remind me of all he stood for, and all he meant to this franchise. After all, there’s no better embodiment of all a football organization can accomplish than the image of Davis, fighting through a jackhammer headache to lead an entire region to pro football’s promised land.
And I’ll think to myself, “If he can plow through pain and succeed, so can I.”
For more, please read Jim Saccomano’s blog on Davis, which details some of his statistical accomplishments.