Denver Broncos Terrell Davis salutes his bust after his speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement ceremony Saturday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. (John Leyba / The Denver Post)
Denver Broncos Hall of Fame inductees John Elway, Floyd… (
CANTON, Ohio — Terrell Davis said he wasn’t going to cry. He envisioned how this all might play out and he tried to prepare himself as best he could, and if anyone was betting on him shedding tears, well, odds were against it. So he said.
Davis has been a blubbering mess for days as his dreams nearly two decades in the making have finally been realized.
But Saturday night, in front of a crowd that included his former Bronco coaches and teammates as well as his family, Davis remained composed and poised as he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, becoming the fifth Bronco with a bronze bust in Canton’s hallowed halls.
Presented by his longtime agent, Neil Schwartz, who promised Davis nearly 23 years ago that he would be here, Davis stood at the center of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium to unveil his bust and slowly rattle off his lengthy list of thank yous, from his offensive line, to his coaches, to his Pop Warner coach Frank White, to his wife and family.
Seated in the audience to the right of the stadium was his former coach, Mike Shanahan; his offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak; his running backs coach, Bobby Turner; Broncos president/CEO Joe Ellis; and a contingent of former teammates. Seated just feet from the podium were his quarterback, John Elway, and tight end, Shannon Sharpe, both donning their own gold jackets. And in the front row were his mother, Kateree, wearing a blue No. 30 Broncos jersey with “Terrell’s Mom” on the back, his wife, two sons and daughter.
“When I first learned that I had been elected to the Hall, I was asked how I might feel wearing this gold jacket and standing next to my bust. I guess I’d be excited, but I really didn’t know,” Davis told the crowd. “But now I can say the overwhelming feeling running through my body today is gratitude. I am grateful to the selection committee. I am grateful to be joining this elite fraternity with all these men. I am grateful to my friends and family and grateful to this wonderful game of football.”
The youngest of six boys, Davis recalled his journey that started in San Diego and led him to Georgia and then Denver and now Canton. His motivation, he said, was a love of the game and of his father, whose passing, Davis said, was “the greatest pain I would ever experience.”
“I loved the physicality of the game, but I had also convinced myself that playing football provided me a way to gain my dad’s approval by proving I was tough,” Davis said. “That’s what drove me. I loved the game, and gaining my dad’s approval.”
For six months, since he was selected as a member of the Class of 2017 back in February, Davis has lived a whirlwind and surreal life that he remembers in moments.
He remembers sitting in a room while a stranger etched the final details into a bust that will live alongside the game’s greats in Canton.
He remembers standing in that UPS store as he ripped open a Haggar Clothing bag and first laid eyes on The Gold Jacket.
He won’t forget sitting in a high school auditorium turned into a makeshift press room, where he recalled memories of his seven-year NFL career and the relationships he built along the way.
And he’s thought about his father, Joe Davis, often wondering what he would think of this spectacle and of his son.
“My dad never saw me play in the National Football League, and to this day, I think about him and I wonder, did I gain his respect?” Davis said. “Dad, I hope you’re looking down, smiling and uttering the words: ‘Son, I’m proud of you.’ ”
He’s thought about his brothers, all reunited in Canton for the first time in years to celebrate what Davis said is a group accomplishment.
And he’s thought about all those times he told reporters and fans that, if he never got the Hall of Fame nod, he would still be satisfied with a career that was bookended with punishing hits and packed with a pair of Super Bowl titles, a Super Bowl MVP award, a league MVP, a membership to the 2,000-yard club, and a slew of Broncos rushing records.
Those were lies, he admitted.
Then on Friday, inside the Canton Civic Center where he was surrounded by dozens of fellow Hall of Famers, Davis stood on another stage and thought about nothing but the present.
Highlights of his condensed career aired as Davis stood in the dark, Schwartz by his side with the gold jacket in hand. When the lights cut on, Schwartz slipped off Davis’ gray suit jacket and slipped on THE jacket. A wide smile stretched across Davis’ face as the auditorium erupted in cheers and he looked out and gave three Mile High Salutes.
Receiving the jacket Friday was one of the moments he longed for in each of the 11 years he was eligible to enter the Hall. But it was just the “tip of the iceberg,” as Davis had been told by others who entered the Hall before him. Unveiling the bust on Saturday that will rest eternally in the Hall of Fame was the other. Thanking those who helped him arrive at the podium was yet another.
All left Davis in a state of elated shock and filled with a mix of emotions that he tried to anticipate, knowing full well he couldn’t. Not as he arrived at the place of his dreams.
“Preparing for today was like preparing for a football game,” Davis said. “It has required everything I could possibly give and it has changed my life.”
Terrell Davis has made it. Finally.