Davis was drafted Denver Broncos in the 6th Round of the 1995 NFL Draft. Davis entered training camp as the sixth string tailback and was a long shot to make the team. He managed to impress the Broncos coaching staff after his second pre-season game, most notably with a crushing hit as a member of special teams. Davis kept improving with each pre-season game and was promoted to starting running back for the season’s opening game.With Davis at running back, the Broncos possessed the potent running attack that they had previously lacked. Davis started 14 games during the 1995 season, carrying the ball 237 times, averaging 4.7 yards per run, and scoring eight touchdowns. Davis finished his season with a total of 1,117 rushing yards, becoming the lowest drafted player to ever gain over 1,000 yards rushing in his rookie season.
The 12-4 Broncos made it through the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl. Not only had the Broncos lost in each of their four previous Super Bowl appearances, but the AFC conference had a 13-year losing streak in Super Bowls against the NFC. In the Super Bowl, Davis rushed for 157 yards, caught two passes for 8 yards, and became the first player in Super Bowl history to score three rushing touchdowns. This performance earned him MVP honors despite having to sit out the second quarter due to a migraine, an affliction from which he has suffered since childhood.
In 1998, Davis rushed for 2,008 yards becoming a member of the 2000 rushing yards club, then the third highest rushing total in history. This performance earned him league MVP honors, his third straight AFC rushing title, his first NFL rushing title, and his second time being named NFL Offensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. At the end of the season, the Broncos beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII, with Davis recording 102 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards.
Super Bowl XXXIII was the last postseason game in which Davis would play. In his 8 postseason games from 1996 to 1998, his numbers were staggering: 204 carries for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with 19 receptions for 131 yards. This included a streak of 7 consecutive games with over 100 rushing yards, all of which the Broncos won, breaking the previous record for consecutive 100 rushing yard postseason games held by John Riggins (6). Even in the sole playoff game in which Davis didn’t gain 100 rushing yards, he still had an impressive performance, rushing for 91 yards and a touchdown and catching 7 passes for 27 yards.
Davis was sent to the Pro Bowl in the 1996, ’97, and ’98 seasons. Nicknamed “TD,” Davis popularized the “Mile High Salute,” a military-style salute given to fans and teammates in celebration of a touchdown.
Through his first four seasons, Davis rushed for 6,413 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and 56 touchdowns. Among the 24 modern-era Hall of Fame halfbacks and fullbacks, only Earl Campbell (6,457, 4.6 yards per carry) and Eric Dickerson (6,968, 4.8 yards per carry) had more rushing yards during their first four seasons; no member of the Hall of Fame matched Davis’ first-four-season 56 rushing touchdowns. Davis was selected for ESPN‘s All-Time 40-Man Super Bowl roster as a running back for his performances in Super Bowls XXXII & XXXIII.
Overall, Davis finished his 7 NFL seasons with 7,607 rushing yards, 169 receptions for 1,280 yards, and 65 touchdowns (60 rushing and 5 receiving). He, John Elway and Peyton Manning are the only three Broncos named league MVP. Davis is one of only six players ever to rush for more than 1,000 yards in the postseason (1,140), and out of the six he is the only one to do so in a career that lasted less than 12 seasons.
Smallthoughts: School Tuesday spotlights …Terrell Davis.
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