Terrell Davis | Pro Football Hall of Fame (2024)

Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium

August 5, 2017

Thank you, thank you.


Well, Joe Horrigan said that it's never rained on Enshrinement Saturday. It's raining today. I want to first congratulate my 2017 classmates. Congratulations, guys. Neil, I think back to 1994 when I was still in college and hadn't even been drafted yet. You and I sat in that New York diner for hours just talking about life, family, and everything in between.

And getting ready for today, I reflected back on what you said to me as we were leaving that diner. You said, T.D., I want you to promise me one thing: When you make it to the Hall of Fame, you allow me to be your presenter.

Well, Neil, I thought you were crazy at the time, but here we are.

(Cheers and applause.)

Thank you, Neil, for believing in me and being such a dear friend and great mentor. You know, it's amazing and surreal to be standing here on this stage. When I first learned that I'd been elected to the Hall, I was asked how I might feel wearing this gold jacket and standing next to my bust. But I guess I'd be excited, but I really didn't know. But now I can say the overwhelming feeling running through my body today is gratitude.

(Cheers and applause.)

Thank you. I am grateful to the Selection Committee. I am grateful to be joining this elite fraternity with all these men. I am grateful to my friends and family and grateful to this wonderful game of football.

I grew up in southeast San Diego, the youngest of six boys, all of us about one year apart. And being the youngest was tough. Always fighting to prove myself in everything, including football. But there was one special person I was determined to prove myself to, and that was my dad.

My dad was tough on my brothers but tougher on me because I was the baby of the family. Yes, I was a crybaby. My dad didn't like the way my mother coddled me. But still, even though I knew he loved me, I always felt like he looked at me a little differently than he did my older brothers. And once I started playing Pop Warner football, I immediately fell in love with the football and earned the nickname "Boss Hog" because the way I ran. I just tried to run people over.

I love the physicality of the game, but I had also convinced myself that playing football provided me a way to gain my dad's approval, and by proving I was tough. And that's what drove me. I loved the game and gaining my dad's approval.

But it's inevitable in life with success comes setbacks. And in these moments, our character and our will are tested. And at nine years old, I received my first test. I began suffering from migraine headaches.

Now, just imagine a nine-year-old having to deal with vomiting, temporary blindness, and painful headaches just to play football. But there again, like seeking my dad's approval, something was pushing me forward to play. And that's what I did.

At 12 came yet another test, one that brought the greatest pain that I would ever experience, and that was the passing of my father. When he died, a part of me died. I went into a tailspin. I quit playing football. I was failing school. I was clearly a child in crisis. My daily ritual was hanging out with friends and getting into trouble.

But this all came to a screeching halt late one night when I was 14. I found myself literally staring down the barrel of a shotgun, and thank God someone talked the guy out of pulling the trigger. When I got home, I laid in my bed, I closed my eyes, and I vividly relived every moment over and over again. I spoke out loud to God, and I promised that I would never find myself in that situation again. I knew that I had to change my life. God had offered me a wakeup call. I couldn't simply say "wrong number" and hang up; I had to answer that call.

(Cheers and applause.)

That night I determined that I would walk away from the irresponsible life I'd been living forever. I transferred to Lincoln High School. I worked to get better grades. I joined the football team. Lincoln provided me the fresh start that I needed.

I want to thank my late coach, Vic Player, for being a true model, true role model. I want to thank all my coaches at Lincoln and teachers and all my teammates at Lincoln High, thank you for being here today.

At Lincoln, I play nose guard and fullback. So, when it came time to think about college, the best offer came from Cal State Long Beach. I saw it as a great opportunity for two reasons. One, my older brother Reggie was already there. And, two, the legendary NFL head coach George Allen was going to coach there.

George Allen ran our program like he did as an NFL head coach, but, sadly, he passed away at the end of my redshirt season. Coach Allen, I know you're listening. It was an honor to play for you.

(Cheers and applause.)

The next season Hall of Famer Willie Brown took over. But one year later our football program was cancelled. So once again, any aspirations of playing pro football seem to die. Another setback, another test. My short time at Long Beach State was special. I forged some great relationships that continue today my roommate, Bryan Duplessis, and close friends Troy Easter and Malcolm Thomas and Andre Devizan, just to name a few.

(Cheers and applause.)

To Hall of Famer Willie Brown, coaches Harvey Hyde and Mike Davis, and the rest of my Long Beach State coaches and teammates, thank you for helping me get here today.

The cancellation of Long Beach program made the national news. And as a result, a recruiter from the University of Georgia, Bob Pittard, called and asked one of our coaches if we have any players who can play in the SEC. He answered: Yes, we have one player; that's Terrell Davis.

Now I was off to the University of Georgia. How about them Dawgs! Now, keep in mind, up to this point, I lost a parent, battled through migraines, and found myself staring down the barrel of a shotgun, and overnight my college football program was gone. But here I am playing for a program with the prestige and tradition of UGA. God is good.

During my senior year, after suffering a torn hamstring, I hit another personal low point. However, this moment also served as a time of real introspection. While watching a game from the stands instead of on the field where I wanted to be, I questioned if I was ever going to play football again.

I asked myself: Did I give the game all I had? Did I play hard enough, study hard enough? And the answer was a resounding no. That reality forced me to decide what kind of player I'd become and what type of man I was committed to being. Another test.

I returned with four games left in the season, and when I did, I worked harder than ever. I didn't hold back. I did everything I could to be my very best. I walked off that field after the final game, and I can say with pride: I finally did whatever it took. I gave it my all and have no regrets.

I love being a Georgia Bulldog and playing between the hedges. My head coach was Ray Goff. Thank you, Ray, for being the coach I needed and for being here today. I'm happy to call you a friend. To my running back coaches, Willie McClendon and David Kelly, thank you for being here and thank you for being there when I needed you.

To my second family in Georgia, Preston Hughes and his mother, Carolyn, thank you for looking out for a kid from California. When I was homesick, you made me feel right at home.

And thank you to the rest of my coaches and teammates. And to Bulldog fans, I want to say it one more time: Gooooooooo Dawgs! Sic 'em!

(Cheers and applause.)

So today it's August the 5th, 2017. Recently a friend pointed out that August the 5th, 1995, was the first day of my NFL career. It was a Broncos preseason game versus the 49ers in Tokyo, Japan. I had one of my worst practices just a few days prior to the game. I thought I had blown my chances of making the team, so I decided to quit. Can you imagine that?

I called the front desk at the hotel and arranged for a flight home. But because I didn't speak Japanese, we couldn't communicate. So I couldn't leave. But by halftime the vets were out of the game and were allowed to eat. Thinking I was not going to play, I started eating, too. And midway through the third quarter, special teams coach wanted me to go in. I was pumped. I said, This is it. This was my chance. I have got to make a play.

Now despite having a belly full of hotdogs, I ran out on kickoff coverage and made a huge hit on the returner.

(Cheers and applause.)

And that was my first NFL play. Now, 22 years later, to the day, I am standing here with these legendary Hall of Famers wearing this beautiful gold jacket.

(Cheers and applause.)

It's so surreal. I was blessed to have been drafted by the Broncos in the sixth round, and my time in Denver was awesome. We had a lot of success. Our 46 wins over a three-year span and our back to back championships were phenomenal.

(Cheers and applause.)

But the success of the Broncos organization begins with the owners, Pat and Annabel Bowlen. Their philosophy is to treat each player on the team as though they were a member of their family. When I tore my ACL, Pat was the first to give me a call in the recovery room.

Pat and Annabel, you have been extraordinary owners, dear friends, and your generosity is second to none.

(Cheers and applause.)

Now, Mr. B is at home right now fighting a courageous battle against Alzheimer's. A few weeks from now the Hall of Fame Selection Committee will be voting on a contributor category. Let's make sure that this champion is enshrined in 2018.

(Cheers and applause.)

To my head coach Mike Shanahan, thank you for believing in me and giving me a chance to have this career. Your leadership was phenomenal.

To my other coaches, Gary Kubiak, Bobby Turner, and Alex Gibbs, thank you for challenging me to be my best every single day.

My prompter went out, by the way. We seem to be having some technical difficulties today.


Thank you.

To my quarterback John Elway where you at, John? Back on, brother I want to thank you for being my quarterback and giving me the opportunity to earn your trust. It was an absolute pleasure to be your teammate. Thank you, brother.

To my running backs, the No Limit Soldiers, it was an honor to go to battle with you guys every single game, especially my fullback Howard Griffith. G, I say thank you for your unselfishness and your sacrifice. You put your body on the line every single play, and I thank you for that, brother.

To my offensive line, you guys are simply amazing. Thank you for making my job so easy. And thank you to the rest of my teammates and coaching staff. We played as a team; we won as a team. Today is for us. I salute every single one of you.

(Cheers and applause.)

I want to thank Steve Antonopulos and the Broncos medical staff. I spent more time with you than I wanted to, but you guys took care of me. So thank you for that. I want to thank Doug West, Jim Saccomano, and the entire Broncos organization, thank you very much.

And to the city of Denver and Bronco fans around the world

(Cheers and applause.)

I salute you. I salute you, brother.

And to my NFL Network (audio interruption) Frank White. Show you're riding. You've been instrumental in my life, starting from the first day you coached me in Pop Warner. Thank you for your love, your trust, your guidance, and your unwavering support. I can't tell you how much I appreciate you, and I love you, big fella. Show your ride.

(Cheers and applause.)

To my brothers, Joe, James, Reggie, Bobby, and Terry, a lot of who I am came from you guys. You taught me so much. Thank you for always being there and always looking out for me. I knew you guys were always there to rescue me. Even though we don't say it often, today I'm saying: I love you.

(Cheers and applause.)

To my younger brother Cale and my sister Jackie, I hope my influence on you was as positive for you as it was for me. I hope you're proud to call me your big brother.

Here you go. To my beautiful wife, Tamiko, I want to share with the world what you already know: When you first walked into my foundation meeting in San Diego 19 years ago, you stole my heart. I know you remember on our first date I said I was going to marry you. Though I didn't yet really know what love was, I did know saying that to you was God speaking through me.

Now 19 years and three children later, I've come to recognize you are my soul mate. You have taught me everything about love. So, thank you for being such a wonderful wife and mother.

It's a joy to help raise our three beautiful children Jackson, Myles, and Dylan. It's been a blast watching Jackson, my oldest son, it's been a blast watching you grow, buddy. For the first word to your first touchdown, you made me proud. I love you, man.

To my middle child, Myles, I love the way you just tear up everything. You remind me of me when I was your age. But keep doing what you're doing, Myles. That's what makes you unique. I love you, Tubby.

And to my little princess, Dylan. The first time you said "DaDa," I was in tears. I cherish every single moment with you.

(Cheers and applause.)

Daddy loves you so much, sweetie.

I dedicate this honor of being enshrined to the two most important influences in my life, my mother, Kateree, and my late father, Joe Davis.

And here's why. Mom, you are my hero. I am so honored that you are my mother. Raising six sons, taking us all to practices, all while working graveyard shifts and split shifts as an LVN. Not once did I ever hear you say no, and not once did I ever hear you complain. You have a huge heart. If somebody needs help, you always do something about it. Which is why you adopted my little brother and sister, Cale and Jackie.

(Cheers and applause.)

I don't know how you did it, Mom. 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.

To my other hero, my father. Although my dad didn't toss around the words "I love you" often, through his tough love and discipline, I knew he did. I knew he never wanted me I knew I never wanted to live the life he lived, as he grew up on the tough streets of St. Louis, and more than once he'd been shot or stabbed, but the reason I ascribe the word "hero" to him is that he always did his very best he knew how to prepare us for his version of life as a black man in America.

And his version was harsh. When I was 12, my father became ill. Until he went to the hospital, I didn't know how sick he was. I didn't know he was the original Iron Man. I didn't matter how many times he'd been sick or hurt, he'd always bounce back. But not this time. My father died of lupus when he was 41. And obviously my dad never saw me play in the National Football League. Until this day I think about him and I wonder: Did I gain his respect?

(Cheers and applause.)

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


Pops taught us toughness and wisdom. My mother taught us courage and compassion. The earnest dedication of both my parents is why I humbly stand before you.

Preparing for today was like preparing for a football game. It has required everything I could possibly give and has changed my life. Sitting in the stands that fateful day at Georgia also changed my life. That day my dedication to dedicate my decision to dedicate myself to football and life became my mantra: Do and be my best, living up to the very high standards of an athlete and as a man.

So, as I close, in my mind's eye, I returned to that frightening moment as a teenager confronting the most severe crisis of my life. It was in that moment when I discovered my ability to hear God's voice. That knowledge has provided me the confidence to do whatever it takes and the awareness that we are never alone.

I've also learned that everything in life has a price. The question is: What price are you willing to pay? The price to quit on our dreams, or the price to do whatever it takes to fulfill our vision?

I stand before you as an example that, no matter what, we can achieve if we believe deeply enough, never quit, and know God's hand is always on the small of our back, supporting, propelling, and guiding us forward.

Thank you. May God bless. I salute you.

(Cheers and applause.)

Terrell Davis | Pro Football Hall of Fame (2024)
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