5 minute read

Terrell Davis Biography

Chronology, Career Statistics, Awards And Accomplishments, Further Information


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

Terrell Davis

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.

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.

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.

Sketch by Paulo Nunes-Ueno

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsFootball