Last Feb. 4, Terrell Davis was in a hotel room in Houston surrounded by his family, waiting for word on whether he would be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, when there came a thunderous rapping at the door—the telltale knock of David Baker, the Hall’s towering president and the man whose arrival signals that a player is headed for Canton. Davis answered, then broke down crying.
He had doubted the day would ever come. Davis had started his career like a Hall of Famer, rushing for 1,117 yards as a Broncos rookie, in 1995, followed by a three-year tear during which he was the best running back in the NFL: 5,296 yards rushing, 49 touchdowns, two Super Bowl titles and the ’98 MVP trophy. But in ’99 he tore two right-knee ligaments trying to make a tackle after an interception, and he was never the same. Davis retired during the preseason in 2002, at 29. “It was in the back of my mind, like, Man, maybe I didn’t play long enough,” Davis says. “And maybe that would be the one thing the voters would hold against me.”