Why Terrell Davis Belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Terrell Davis belongs in the Hall of Fame. (Sports Illustrated)

Note: This article was originally published on January 28th, 2011.

When the Pro Football Hall of Fame released its list of 2011 finalists earlier this month, one name in particular was missing once again. For the fifth time, Terrell Davis failed to advance beyond the semi-finalist stage of Hall of Fame consideration. There are many deserving men who have yet to hear their name called for enshrinement, but the buzz around the league for the inclusion of Terrell Davis does not seem to be nearly loud enough.

The California native who became a Broncos legend in the late-1990’s accomplished just about everything an NFL player could hope for during his seven seasons, three of which were injury plagued after sustaining a serious knee injury during the 1999 campaign. Davis is one of only 7 running backs to win a Super Bowl MVP award, one of only 15 to win the Associated Press MVP award, and one of only 6 to rush for over 2000 yards in a single season. If you consider the rushing title Davis won in 1998, he is the only running back in the history of the NFL to attain all four honors.

The numbers accumulated by Davis over his first four seasons are simply staggering. He racked up 6,413 rushing yards and 61 total touchdowns over that stretch. It takes a Hall of Fame caliber back to truly dominate the league for any stretch of time, and for those four years, he was the best in football. They always say that players are defined during the playoffs. In the high pressure atmosphere of the postseason, Davis was even more impressive. He accounted for 1,140 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 8 career playoff games. That correlates to 2,280 yards over a 16 game season, all when the stakes were at their highest. He also holds the all-time record with seven straight 100-yard games in the playoffs during the Broncos back-to-back championship run.

The biggest criticism of Davis is that his career numbers don’t measure up because he didn’t play long enough. But where is it written that you must play 10 seasons or rush for 10,000 yards to become eligible for the hall of fame? By that logic, Ricky Watters and his 10,643 rushing yards should be getting his speech ready. Any player who plays long enough can post impressive lifetime numbers. Warrick Dunn, Edgerrin James, Fred Taylor, and Corey Dillon all rank in the top 20 in all-time rushing yards, yet no one seriously believes that any of these men should be considered for the Hall of Fame. Davis finished his career with 7,607 rushing yards, 1,280 receiving yards, and 65 total touchdowns. By comparison, current Hall of Famer Larry Csonka rushed for 8,081 yards and scored 68 total touchdowns, but that took him 11 seasons. Gale Sayers, a Hall of Fame running back who also had his career shortened due to an injury, finished with 4,956 rushing yards and 56 total touchdowns.

Davis was simply unlucky to have his career cut short by an injury. It’s not his fault that an interception was thrown and his exceptional hustle put him in position to make the tackle heard around the Rockies. It was unfair to him and all of his fans, but it by no means diminishes the impact he made on the game.  The Hall of Fame is for great players who need to be discussed when providing a history of the game. The history of the NFL, and especially the history of the playoffs and the Super Bowl, simply cannot be told in its entirety without discussing Terrell Davis.

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Topics: Corey Dillon, Denver Broncos, Edgerrin James, Fred Taylor, Gale Sayers, Larry Csonka, Pro Football Hall Of Fame, Ricky Watters, Terrell Davis, Warrick Dunn

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