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Eleven-year wait ends as Terrell Davis earns gold jacket

CANTON, Ohio — The Broncos' fifth Hall of Famer seemed comfortable.

His gold jacket fit him well, and he proudly showed off the No. 305 embroidered inside.

305.

It's Terrell Davis' place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, now and for endless years forward.

In the future, he'll join the other members of the exclusive 310-member fraternity at future Gold Jacket Dinners as they're introduced one by one. On Friday night, there were nearly 100 of them, and the names of those in attendance ranged from Roger Staubach to Franco Harris to Jim Brown.

There were Broncos, too, of course. Not many, but that hardly mattered to the mass of Denver fans in attendance.

Floyd Little and Gary Zimmerman were some of the select few greeted by roars, rather than polite applause.

But Friday was about Davis and his long, 11-year wait to stride between the corridor of Hall of Famers onto a stage in the middle.

This night was about the grey suit jacket he slipped off and replaced with the gold one that will surely find a prominent place in his home.

This night was about looking to his wife, Tamiko, and finding tears in his eyes.

After 11 years, who could blame him? Better yet, who would want to?

"That [wait is] part of it," Davis said. "And then … for a while I wasn't even mentioned in terms of being a guy that would be here. So yeah, at one point I thought I was never going to make it. And now, you're here, it just makes it that much more sweet."

Terrell Davis is finally golden. After years of waiting for Hall of Fame enshrinement, the Broncos legend received his gold jacket. (photos by Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

There were Mile High Salutes on this evening. Of course there were Mile High Salutes.

These may have been the best ones yet.

Davis said he isn't sure how he'll keep his emotions in check during Saturday's enshrinement ceremony, but he would like to clear something up about the emotion he showed Friday night at the Canton Civic Center:

LaDanian Tomlinson teared up first.

"L.T. was the first one to go, so I'm good now," Davis said.

The rush of emotion likely will not stop for Davis. He and his brothers are all together for the first time in nearly two decades, the last time being at one of Davis' two Super Bowl appearances.

Other important people in his life will join for the enshrinement ceremony Saturday.

President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway is flying in. Davis knows him as a teammate with whom he won two Lombardi Trophies.

Little and Zimmerman and Gary Kubiak and Shannon Sharpe and Steve Atwater and Mike Shanahan and Bobby Turner and Ed McCaffrey -- they'll all be there too.

"It means a lot," Davis said earlier Friday. "To me, more so than anything, the relationships you built in this sport and the respect that people have for you and the love they show you, that's what it's all about for me. If you talk to most players and you ask them, you can have all the reporters write all the reports they want to about a person, but when they get a compliment from a teammate or an opponent or a coach, it carries a lot of weight. So to have my friends and coaches come back to see me in this moment, it means the world to me."

Davis joins Elway, Sharpe, Little and Zimmerman in that exclusive Broncos club. And while he's had discussions about what this Gold Jacket Dinner would feel like, no one could quite capture the essence.

The Hall of Famers warned him any emotion he expected would increase by tenfold.

As he stood on a platform and turned toward the different sides of the crowd, that sentiment didn't quite do the moment justice.

"There's nothing you can do that's going to prepare you for what you're about to experience," Davis said. "Once you go through it, then you understand what they're talking about."

So maybe that's why Davis said he had no plans to shed the gold jacket until he's explicitly told.

"I keep it on," said Davis when asked about the night's plans for the jacket, "until they take it off. I think they take it off, and then they give it back tomorrow so you don't get it dirty. I think that's the plan. And then after that, you take it."

He's waited 11 years. What's one more day?

Perhaps it means a lot, when you hear what that moment on stage meant.

Eleven years of patience, frustration, doubt and elation reached a crescendo in that moment.

"You saw when I took my [original] jacket off," Davis said. "I was pretty excited to get this jacket on.

"When he put it on, it makes it official. I'm a Hall of Famer now."

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