It all started with a single hit in a pre-season game in Tokyo:
Young sixth-round pick Terrell Davis would soon become the best back in professional football. He would put together a string of seasons that are arguably the best four year span of any running back in history. In his first four seasons, he gained 6,413 yards, won two Super Bowl rings, was named league MVP as well as Super Bowl MVP, named the 1996 and 1998 AP Offensive Player of the Year, and rushed for over 2,000 yards in a single season.
The argument against Terrell has always been his short career. Unfortunately, Terrell career ended much like it began – on a tackle. He was making a tackle on an interception in 1999 and was hit on the knee. He was never the same again.
Another back with a short career who is in the Hall of Fame is Gayle Sayers. Gayle belongs in the Hall – he was a one-man wrecking crew for the Bears during his healthy years. Still, his numbers are not as strong as TD’s even though they both played the same amount of time (1965-71 for Sayers, 1995-2001 for TD). TD rushed for 7,607 yards vs Sayers’ 4,956. TD’s rushing TDs were 60 vs. Sayers’ 39. Sayers did win the YPC battle with 5.0 vs 4.6 and also have 1,307 receiving yards with 9 TDs which eclipses Davis’ 1,280 and 5 TDs. Sayers was one hell of a kick returner, too, something TD never did.
Sayers, however, never won a championship. TD won two. Two back to back, might I add. In fact, in eight career playoff games he accumulated 1,140 yards on 204 carries and scored 12 touchdowns. Gayle Sayers never made the playoffs.
Like Sayers, I believe Davis has to be looked at based on potential as well as production. Sayers was also more romanticized because of “Brian’s Song” (if you haven’t seen it, watch it). Look at Sandy Koufax in baseball. His career was brief compared to other HOF pitchers, but he absolutely dominated baseball for six years and was considered the best for that span. Was he a “maybe” for the Hall? Not for a second.
Davis is a lot like Koufax, in my opinion. He had a brief career but dominated at his position for the brief time he played. Remember that the Broncos with the mighty Elway had never won a Super Bowl until Davis showed up.
Terrell Davis belongs in the Hall of Fame. There should be no question about it.