ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —When Terrell Davis got news from his agent three years ago that he'd been named a Hall of Fame finalist for the first time, the former Broncos' great almost crashed his car.
This year's finalist nod didn't come with quite the same degree of shock — but it was just as much of an honor for a player whose case for Hall of Fame candidacy is no secret. Fifteen years after his retirement, there is still no other player to match Davis with an NFL MVP award, Super Bowl MVP award and 2,000-yard rushing season.
"There's no guarantee that they're going to call your name every year," Davis said. "My excitement for this year was just as much as my excitement the first year I heard my name called as a finalist. I don't take it for granted. Certainly, you're always thinking about the possibility of it happening. And once this moment happens, you're just one step closer to it being a reality."
Davis, who looks to break into the Hall of Fame after years of being on the doorstep, said he himself only recently recognized the significance of his accomplishments.
"What's interesting is that I never thought about it while I was playing," Davis told DenverBroncos.com. "You just play. You try to hold yourself accountable to your teammates and your coaches, at least I did. I wanted to try to make the people around me feel like I had their back and that you could count on me. … I was never thinking about numbers or MVPs — I just wanted to play as hard as I could for the guy next to me, in front of me, behind me.
"Looking back on it, yeah, that was a difficult feat. It was tough to show up in moments like that, when you talk about playoffs and throughout an entire season. It showed consistency, and I'm proud of that."
Though his career lasted just seven seasons, the prime of his career rivaled any back in history as he racked up three first-team All-Pro selections from 1996-1998. And as the selection committee nears its decision on this year's class, Davis feels he's on the doorstep. For the Broncos Ring of Famer, even being named a finalist is an honor he won't take lightly.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee is certainly aware of Davis' resume. And as he approaches the selection weekend for the third time as a finalist after missing the cut his first eight years, Davis said he can feel the momentum building in his favor. He isn't yet sure if he'll be inducted in a strong class that includes LaDainian Tomlinson, but he can hear how his national supporters have become louder over the years.
"Certainly I've seen the ground swell of support and I've seen my name thrown up there when I watch TV or read articles. I see my name come across more often than not. And that's a great sign. I hear people say, 'Hey, this guy deserves to be in.' So you see all that and you're like, 'Okay, it feels good.' But the Hall is unpredictable, and you can't predict who's going in and who's not."
Avoiding such predictions would be wise, as the list is full of deserving candidates that range from Tomlinson to John Lynch, and Kurt Warner to Don Coryell. And it's because of the competition that Davis knows the selection process gets tough. A handful of supremely talented players will be left to the side again, and Davis understands that's part of the wait. He also understands the politics of a Hall of Fame class, and he said he wonders if they'll select two running backs to go in together. So while he believes this year represents his "best chance" to date to gain entry to the Hall of Fame, he knows he may have to wait another year.
Check out the best photos of Terrell Davis, a 2017 finalist for selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"I think over the last three years, it feels like it's getting closer and closer," Davis said. "I certainly would love to go in this year. I wouldn't be mad. I wouldn't be upset. But I've also expressed publically that I thought 2018 would be my best shot ever."
That, again, stems from a jam-packed class of candidates for 2017. Still, Davis admits there would be something special about joining the Hall with this particular group, given the slew of connections he has with those up or induction.
"That would be cool, man" Davis said. "This class is unique. I've worked with Kurt, I know him very well. Good friends. So that has something to do with it. Of course, John Lynch is a good friend of mine. Obviously played with the Broncos, but we're both from San Diego. L.T., I worked with him.
"All these guys are like friends, so it would be cool for that to happen. And, of course, Don Coryell. I grew up a Chargers fan. He was the mastermind. In my opinion, they were 'The Greatest Show on Turf' before the Rams. So there a lot of guys that I'm super familiar with. And that always helps, to be in a class with people that you know and you like and you care about."
That's not to say Davis won't be just as excited if he is chosen in 2018 or in a year that follows.
"If it happens, I'm sure I wouldn't mind," Davis said. "You'll never hear me say, 'I don't want to go in.'" For Davis, the long-awaited honor would be sweet no matter when it arrives.