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At long last, Terrell Davis finally receives recognition he deserves

Posted Nov 19, 2017

The honor was definitely worth the wait.

It took far too long for Terrell Davis to get what he deserved this year.

As a frequent finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he knew he was close. But when the waiting finally ended in Houston last February, he was still stunned by finally breaking through, especially because he thought the slam-dunk candidacy of Chargers and Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson might extend his wait for yet another year.

"I felt that it was close, but the one caveat was L.T. being in the same class, and I knew he was going in, so I really felt there was no way they were going to put two backs in the same class — especially a guy who's a first-ballot Hall of Famer vs. a special-circumstance guy like me," Davis said. "I felt that's what they saw me as."

This year, the Hall of Fame Selection Committee saw Davis as something more than just a special circumstance. They saw him as an exceptional player who maximized a limited career span as few other players have. When playoffs are included, Davis is one of just two players to rush for over 3,000 yards and average 100 rushing yards per game for his career.

The other? The legendary Jim Brown, whose career also ended in the midst of his prime, after nine seasons.

When Davis ran during his seven seasons as a Bronco, he rarely took the scenic route. His decisive style was perfect for the Broncos' offense; he read the blocking as it set up, found a hole, made his single cut and sprinted forward. It was direct and powerful, with enough open-field speed once he broke through to make him a touchdown threat every time he touched the football.

His path to the Hall of Fame was far less direct.

"It wasn't a direct shot. It was a bob-and-weave. It was serpentine," Davis said. "It was a lot of different unexpected twists and turns, and here I am standing in front of you guys, talking about the Hall of Fame."

Davis also knows that his induction was not just about him, but the fact that he represents a single team -- which puts him in the minority of recent players enshrined in Canton. Just nine of the 31 players inducted in the last five years played his entire career with a single team. Every one of Davis' 1,859 carries -- including 204 in eight postseason games -- came with the Broncos, and he is one of just five people in the Hall of Fame who are there based primarily on their work as Broncos.

That is a gross underrepresentation for a team with three world championships and eight Super Bowl appearances in its 58-year history. Other franchises that started in 1960 along with the Broncos, including their AFC West rivals in the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs, have far greater Hall of Fame representation despite substantially fewer team accomplishments.

During Davis' acceptance speech, he called for Bowlen to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, the waiting will go on for at least one more year, as the Contributors Committee nominated former Redskins and Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard for the 2018 Hall of Fame class, choosing to bypass an owner whose vast contributions to the league's success are surpassed only by his own team's accomplishments, with more Super Bowl appearances (seven) than losing seasons (five) during his remarkable 34-season stewardship of the club.

"It's disappointing, and we know what Pat Bowlen means -- not only to the Broncos, but to the town and really to the state of Colorado," Davis said. "His impact and influence is tremendous, and it's unfortunate that when you play for, coach or own a team that's really not in a major media market, it seems that a lot of people forget about Denver. And that seems to be the trend for players going in, and for any contributor or owner, it seems that the same thing is happening.

"But at the same time, I understand the process. It's not an easy one. It's tough how they select the candidates. So you just hope and pray that next year is the year -- and it certainly should be. But, yeah, when I heard the news that he wasn't going in, it was a huge disappointment, but you can't do anything about that. You just hope that it happens sooner rather than later."

Bowlen is just part of what the Broncos hope is an eventual wave of franchise legends who will join Davis, John Elway, Floyd Little, Shannon Sharpe and Gary Zimmerman. Ring of Fame safety John Lynch is a perennial finalist. Another Ring of Fame safety, Steve Atwater, was a finalist in 2016.

"I've been beating the drum for Steve for a long time. He knows," Davis said last month. "Steve Atwater ... he needs to go in."

Hopefully, that day -- and the day for many other Broncos legends -- will come. Today, Davis will become the fifth man to receive a Hall of Fame ring for what he did with the Broncos. He will not be the last. But ever the team player, what he wants is for plenty of others who share his Broncos heritage to eventually have the same distinction he does: to be called a Hall of Famer.

Davis got what he deserved: membership in the sport's most exclusive club. There are few things he would love more than to welcome other legends of the orange and blue into that elite fraternity.