HOUSTON --Terrell Davis knew his time for the Pro Football Hall of Fame was coming.
He just didn't think it would be now.
"I'm shocked," he said Saturday night after being announced as a part of the seven-man Hall class for 2017.
The reason? He didn't think the Selection Committee would see fit to add two running backs. With LaDainian Tomlinson poised to be a slam-dunk choice to earn induction in his first year of eligibility, Davis figured his wait would linger one more year to 2018 -- when he thought he would have his best chance.
Check out the best photos of Terrell Davis, a 2017 finalist for selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"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."
But there was some history for adding a pair of running backs, including one Bronco. Seven years ago, Floyd Little -- a Seniors Committee nominee -- joined Emmitt Smith as part of the 2010 class.
"Of course, I was ecstatic that they didn't look at it as two backs in the same class," Davis said.
Instead, the Selection Committee judged Davis on his merits -- and the quality of his years, rather than the quantity. That was one of the themes of this year's Hall of Fame class, as Davis, safety Kenny Easley and quarterback Kurt Warner all had relatively short career spans for their positions because of various circumstances.
Knee problems effectively ended Davis' prime in just his fifth season, and would eventually curtail his career after seven years. A kidney ailment ended Easley's brilliant Seahawks career in 1988 after seven seasons. And Warner had a late entry into the NFL at age 27 after detouring to the Arena Football League and NFL Europe; he started 129 games, including playoffs -- the equivalent of just barely over eight seasons. At some positions, that's a vast amount, but it pales compared with other great quarterbacks.
In all three cases, the greatness was there. For a period of time, each was the best at what he did.
And for each, it took skill, talent -- and taking advantage of the opportunities when they presented themselves.
No opportunity is more memorable for Davis than the one he had on kickoff coverage in Tokyo during a preseason game in 1995, barely three months after the Broncos used a sixth-round pick on him.
Without a rattling hit that showed his hustle, desire and energy, who knows if Davis would have been on the stage at the Wortham Center here Saturday, barely able to contain his glee as nearly a decade of waiting finally ended?
"I wouldn't be here," Davis said. "There's always defining moments in everybody's career, and that was my defining moment. That got me the opportunity to run with the football, and then I took advantage of it when they let me do it."
On a per-game basis, only Jim Brown took greater advantage of that kind of opportunity. Including the playoffs, Brown is the only other running back to average over 100 yards per game in a career with at least 6,000 rushing yards.
Just like it took a while for defenders to catch up with Davis, so too did it take the Selection Committee time to catch up with -- and properly appreciate -- the extent of Davis' accomplishments.
And just like Davis' football arc, which included a cross-country trek from San Diego to Georgia for college and injuries during his Bulldogs days, his path to the Hall of Fame winded and went the long way. But that made his arrival at the destination all the sweeter.
"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."
Hall of Famer Terrell Davis. He's been worthy of that title for many years. Now and forevermore, it's his.