For Terrell Davis, there were three running backs that he considered foundational for the NFL.
There was Jim Brown, Gale Sayers and O.J. Simpson. By the time Simpson retired after the 1979 season, he and Brown were pro football's No. 2 and No. 1 all-time leading rushers, respectively. And Sayers, a five-time first-team All-Pro, was a dominant runner who would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
"Those, to me, were like the three larger-than-life figures that growing up, before I even started realizing football and the guys who played the game and [who] the great running backs who played this game [were]," Davis said during an NFL Network segment reflecting on Sayers' life. "Those to me were the names that linger for a long time. … I never saw him play in person obviously, but to watch the film and hear his name and the legacy of Gale Sayers for all those years [was great].
"That was one of the guys when I met [him] at the Pro Football Hall of Fame and got a chance to sit down and finally meet him, I was awestruck. I was, like, sitting there saying, 'Man, this is Gale Sayers,' which was really cool to see because those were just larger than life names. You hear what Cris Collinsworth was talking about and how he was playing on trashy fields and garbage fields and still had the ability to make people miss. Most people — Barry Sanders — are talking about how he was playing before his time. Those are the memories you have of Gale Sayers."
Ultimately, Sayers' legacy would prove even more important than the rest for Davis and his own chances to get a gold jacket of his own.
Sayers' career was unfortunately cut short due to knee injuries, but he had rushed for more than 800 yards in each of his first five seasons, including a 20-touchdown rookie season. Davis faced similar troubles after an incredible first four years that included a 2,000-yard season, 1998 NFL MVP and Super Bowl XXXII MVP honors and three first-team All-Pro selections.
And when Davis' name came up for consideration for election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Selection Committee members could look to Sayers as a valid and worthy precedent.
"Of course for me, Gale's name came up a lot when it came [time] for my argument for to go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame," Davis said. "And so, if he didn't have the career he had, which was shortened and super sweet — one of the most-decorated careers — I don't know if I get a shot to make it to the Hall, because there was no other person who had that type of career that they could kind of compare mine to. And thank God Gale had his career and I was able to kind of attach my name to his and to where people there would do that and say, 'If Gale got in, we should consider Terrell as well.' I thank him for that."
Davis said after his induction into the Hall of Fame, he even communicated that gratitude to Sayers.
"He was like, 'Why are you thanking me?'" Davis said. "I was like, 'Dude, if you didn't do what you did, I wouldn't be here.' But he was real cool. We talked about life. He was just a great person. You're going to hear people talk about that so much — that when you talk to him, he just had this ability to kind of strip away this image of Gale that we all know by being true, human and just real great guy. It was really fun to meet him, and thank God I got chance to do that."
Below the Fold
When I first laid eyes on this Week 3 matchup, I had visions of Von Miller chasing Tom Brady in the backfield dancing through my head. Unfortunately, that won't be the case. And that's apparently even disappointing to Brady, too. The future Hall of Famer said Miller is “as good of a player as there is on the defensive side of the ball in NFL history,” during his media availability on Thursday.
Injuries have clearly been the Broncos' biggest concern this week after losing Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton, A.J. Bouye, Miller and more players for extended lengths of time through the first two weeks of the season. The biggest injury impact for Denver this week, as Jeff Legwold writes for ESPN, is how the team adapts with Jeff Driskel moving into the starting lineup.