Many football analysts use longevity as a benchmark to determine who is deserving of enshrinement to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Players like Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis, who were both tremendous running backs in their own right, were staunchly advocated for enshrinement for this very reason.
While their careers may have been longer than Terrell Davis’, there is no doubt that Davis’ years on the field were far more transcendent than any of their best years on the gridiron. It's a rarity for a player to reflect on his career and know at any certain moment, he wasn't just the best player at his position in the game, but that he was the best player in the game regardless of position, anywhere in the world.
Zone running as we know it was perfected by TD. He's been the best player in the league. A pioneer and a superstar belongs in Canton.— Robert Mays (@robertmays) January 19, 2017
For 1997 and 1998, Davis was that player. A back-to-back First-Team All Pro and Pro Bowl selection, Davis also earned accolades and honors as the 1997 Super Bowl MVP and in 1998, the AP and PFWA's league-wide MVP in 1998. Few men will ever know what it feels like to dominate like Davis did, whose gargantuan statistical output over the course of those two seasons is still unmatched and unparalleled to this day.
Including both the regular season and playoffs, Davis stormed into the league record books by amassing 2,331 rushing yards in 1997. If those numbers aren’t impressive enough for you, how about a league-best 23 rushing touchdowns, eight of which came in the post-season when his rushing prowess mattered the most, which propelled the Broncos to their very first Lombardi Trophy.
Had that season was to be the last we had ever seen of #30, we still might be waiting for a player who could dart, dash and destroy his way through defenses the way he could. There weren’t many who believed he could ascend to greater heights, but the doubters were eventually proven wrong when in 1998, Davis reached the exclusive 2,000 yard club (the fourth and one of only seven backs ever to do so) and powered the Denver Broncos to their second straight Super Bowl title.
In arguably the most historic season by a running back in the history of the NFL, Davis’ 19 game rushing total (which includes the regular season and playoffs) nearly reached 2,500 yards (2,476 to be exact) and an eye-popping 24 touchdowns. For those of us lucky to witness it, we were extraordinarily fortunate. With the evolution and change in dynamic over the past two decades in the NFL — it's probable that we will never see another player artfully command a rushing symphony like he did wearing the orange and blue at the running back position.
Most certainly, Davis’ two-year stretch of gridiron domination is yet another reason for him to belong in the glorified halls of Canton, Ohio alongside fellow greats like O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson and Barry Sanders, whose single-season performances while historically impressive, fall short of the mark in respect to overall impact and magnitude that Davis’ provided for the Broncos in those two seasons, who may have very well not earned back-to-back Super Bowl championships without him.
It isn't just about longevity, it's about the type of impact a player makes in the time he is given on the field. Davis shouldn't be penalized and held out of Canton for having a career shortened by injury, but should be heralded, honored and enshrined for being one of the greatest players to ever grace the gridiron and making the most of the opportunities he was given.
Thank you for everything, Terrell Davis. Broncos Country will never stop fighting for you to obtain the well-deserved honor of becoming a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.