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Terrell Davis should make you proud

CANTON, Ohio — Terrell Davis should impress you.

His 2,000-yard season and regular-season MVP award should make you stop and think about the type of player Davis was during his career with the Broncos.

His 101.7 yards per game and 142.5-yard playoff rushing average should summon Lombardi memories and banish doubts surrounding a late-round pick's limits.

Davis' 6,413 yards and 56 rushing touchdowns in his first four seasons should generate an appreciation for greatness when it breaks through tackles right in front of us.

He built his case for the Pro Football Hall of Fame with those numbers – and they're damn good ones.

The video board showed some of the accompanying highlights Saturday night as Davis delivered his speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony.

The tackle in Japan. His three touchdowns in Super Bowl XXXII. The run to push him over 2,000 yards.

Impressive, no doubt.

But that's not what should make you proud of Davis.

Pride should stem from the ways in which Davis lived up to the teachings of his parents. From his mother, he learned courage and compassion.

"I don't know how you did it, Mom," Davis said. "You clothed us, you fed us and you never left anybody behind. You taught me responsibility, to always give back.

"Mom, you are the embodiment of unconditional love and I love you very much."

Those ideals were evident Saturday as he spoke to his wife, Tamiko.

"Nineteen years and three children later, I've come to recognize you are my soul mate," Davis said. "You have taught me everything about love. So thank you being such a wonderful wife and mother."

Or perhaps Davis' selflessness elicits pride.

Even on this enshrinement night – his own night, 11 years in the making – he made sure to address the Hall of Fame and call for Owner Pat Bowlen's induction.

"Let's make sure that this champion is enshrined in 2018," he said.

But Davis' toughness, a trait he attributes to his late father, was his most admirable quality on display Saturday.

After seasons of fighting through the repercussions of a torn ACL, Davis reminded everyone how that pain can pale in comparison to loss.

Before an audience of millions, Davis described the man who raised his children with a foundation of tough love and discipline; of a father who didn't want his sons to relive his own tough upbringing; of a dad who never sugarcoated the "harsh" version of life awaiting a black man in America.

His words seemed as cathartic as they were grateful.

Davis relived seeing the "original iron man" fall to lupus at the age of 41, years too early to see his son play in the National Football League.

Years too early, even, to see Davis play a game at Long Beach State or Georgia.

As the youngest of six boys, Davis said he'd always aimed to prove himself to his father. He found that outlet on the football field. Beginning in Pop Warner, Davis ran people over to display his toughness in front of his dad.

"That's what drove me," Davis said. "I loved the game and gaining my dad's approval."

Though he began to develop migraines – which would bother him throughout his career and famously reappear in the second quarter of Super Bowl XXXII – Davis continued to play.

Anything for his father. Anything for approval.

Then came, as Davis put it Saturday night, the greatest pain he would ever experience.

When his father died, the 12-year-old Davis lost his passion as a football player – and far more as a son.

"When he died, a part of me died," Davis said. "I went into a tailspin. I quit playing football. I was failing school. I was clearly a child in crisis."

It wasn't until a shotgun was pointed at his face at age 14 that Davis pulled out of the cycle in which he found himself and returned to football.

It's skipping a few steps, certainly, to jump right back to Davis' Hall of Fame enshrinement.

But to see him on stage at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium? That's the ultimate testament to Davis' resilience.

He certainly had plenty of people to thank for helping him reach the moment: teammates, coaches, friends and family.

Terrell Davis' journey to the Hall of Fame has finally reached its pinnacle with his bust unveiling and enshrinement speech. (photos by Logan Bowles/NFL unless noted)

Still, it wasn't hard to see that for as many supportive people Davis had in the crowd, he may always yearn for one more.

"To this day I think about him," Davis said, "and I wonder did I gain his respect?"

As he paused to crane his neck toward the sky, Davis seemed genuine in his search for an answer.

"Dad, I hope you're looking down, smiling and uttering the words, 'Son, I'm proud of you.'"

There was no reason not to be proud on this night, one of joy and celebration of the accomplishments of Terrell Davis.

Each of the seven inductees was grateful to be on stage Saturday as they joined the 303 previous members of the Hall of Fame. But none showed the pure elation of Davis as he pulled the covering off his bust and leaned down to kiss the head of his bronze likeness.

There could be nothing sweeter for the man who lost his father and nearly lost his own life.

On this night, Davis could not have been more alive.

So cherish the statistics and the highlights, but recognize what's more important.

Terrell Davis should make you proud.

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