No Denver Bronco ever took a handoff and ran with it better than Terrell Davis. That’s as true now in an interview as it was when John Elway turned back from the center and held out the football.
So, here’s 390 words that will forever change how you remember the play that put Terrell Davis on the Broncos’ map once and for all: his thunderclap on 49ers kickoff returner Tyronne Drakeford during an Aug. 6, 1995 preseason game at the Tokyo Dome that made the entire team stand up and take notice.
“The other day I was speaking somewhere and I had to think about really how it all started. For me, I said that there’s really one play in my whole career that I always think about all the time. I don’t talk about it a lot but it’s that play,” he said. “It’s a funny story about what happened. You know the hit, but you don’t know the story behind it.
“So it was the second preseason game in Tokyo. Well, the first preseason game, I didn’t play (much). (He had one carry for no gain.) The second game, chances are I’m not going to play in the second game. It’s past halftime and I’m hungry, man, I’m starving. So about the third quarter, I’ve got hot dogs, I’ve got chili dogs, I’ve got French fries, I’ve got ding dongs, I’ve got Snickers, thinking I’m not going to play.
“So, come the fourth quarter, they come to me — I think it was (current Linebackers Coach Richard Smith), who was a special teams coach, he said, ‘Hey, we’re going to put you in.’ He asked me if I wanted to go in and I was thinking, ‘Dude, I just ate all kinds of food, I don’t know if I want to go in the game now.’ The game was basically over, so I said, ‘OK, I’ll go in.’ So I went in, thank God I did, I went in and made that hit.
“So then I’m thinking that’s the only play I’m going to play. Well, I come back to the sideline and Running Backs Coach Bobby Turner comes over and says, ‘Hey, we want you to play a few more snaps.’ I threw up after I ran out on the kick. Bobby comes over and says, ‘Are you OK?’ ‘Yeah, I’m fine Bobby.’ ‘Do you want to play?’ ‘Uh, sure man, I’ll go in.’ I went in and I think I had five runs or something like that. But that’s where it all started.”
After going unused in the first half, Davis ran 11 times for 46 yards after his hit on Drakeford. Two weeks later, he led the Broncos with 73 yards on 10 carries in a preseason game against Dallas. Another two weeks later, Davis was the opening-night starter, on his way to his first of four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
“I think back to that because if I had said to (Coach) Smith that I didn’t want to go in, who knows where I would be today?” Davis said. “Again, it’s because I’m over there eating hot dogs and stuff. So, kids, don’t eat hot dogs when the opportunity presents itself — or Ding Dongs or Kit Kats or whatever else we had.”