ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- C.J. Anderson has often talked about the “tradition of the backs here," the list of 1,000-yard rushers, as he continues to try to carve out a slice of his own along the way.
And Wednesday, a significant piece of that tradition was standing alongside three of the Denver Broncos' current running backs -- Anderson, Devontae Booker and Jamaal Charles -- after the Broncos finished a minicamp practice. Hall of Famer Terrell Davis, who is the Broncos’ all-time leading rusher, was at the Broncos’ complex as part of broadcast duties with the NFL Network.
It was Davis’ first visit to the team since he was named as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017 this past February. The group will be formally enshrined on Aug. 5 in Canton, Ohio.
“There’s no way to describe what that meant to me," Davis said after the Broncos had just closed out the second day of their mandatory minicamp.
He was asked about being diplomatic during a 10-year wait after he became eligible for enshrinement and offered, with a smile, that he had tried to be. And that, well, not everything he said has actually coming from the heart through the years.
This was Davis’ third time as a finalist for the Hall of Fame and he had made the cut to 25 semi-finalists on multiple occasions.
“Then I would come out and say if I didn’t make the Hall I was fine with it, it didn’t change my career," Davis said laughing. “I meant some of that. I didn’t mean all of it. But I think when it happened, the relief that I felt, I realized how much I wanted it."
But Davis’ visit simply re-affirmed just how deeply rooted he is in the team’s history and how important he was in acquiring two of the three Lombardi trophies the Broncos have in their lobby. Mike Shanahan, John Elway, Rod Smith and many of Davis’ other former teammates have consistently said they likely would not have Super Bowl rings if not for Davis.
His photo can be found at a variety of spots in the hallways at the team’s facility. Davis was a league MVP, a Super Bowl MVP, set an NFL record with 142.5 average rushing yards per game in the postseason and powered back-to-back Super Bowl wins to close out the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
Davis said Wednesday that his Hall of Fame induction has also given him a bigger platform to tell his story a little more often. He was a sixth-round pick by the Broncos in the 1995 draft and had even debated walking away from the Broncos in his first preseason.
“I cherished that journey, I love what happened because it made me a better person, a better player. I wouldn’t change any of it," Davis said.
“(But) let’s just say if I spoke better Japanese, I wouldn’t be here."
Davis was referencing a Broncos’ preseason trip to Tokyo during his rookie year. At the time he was buried on the depth chart, didn’t think too much of his chances to make the roster and said he was debating over “walking away from it."
“I looked at everything around me, and I just had no shot at making the team. I was a sixth-round draft pick, I was seventh on the depth chart, I wasn’t getting any reps in practice," Davis said. “I had my coach (former running backs coach Bobby Turner) was constantly on me. I didn’t feel like there was any way I could make the team. I had a weak moment."
But Davis stayed, and in the Aug. 6, 1995, preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers in the Tokyo Dome, Davis leveled 49ers kick returner Tyronne Drakeford in kickoff coverage. It’s a hit that remains a well-played item on YouTube and Shanahan has routinely said it was the play that launched Davis’ career with the team.
Former Broncos coach Gary Kubiak used to show it to the team’s rookies as a teaching device as to why they shouldn’t worry about draft status or the depth chart. The play, Kubiak always said, was proof you could get noticed in a variety of ways.
Davis said Wednesday, as he spoke of the Hall of Fame, that it’s all part of his football message now when people ask what it took for him to go from there to Canton.
“If you quit, the result is always failure," Davis said.
“Even if your situation seems dire, don’t give up. Just keep fighting, keep fighting because you never know."
Davis said the reality of his coming enshrinement really sunk in with a recent visit with the sculptor who is making the bust that will remain at the Hall.
“You think about where it’s going and how many years it’s going to be there," Davis said. “No matter what happens, nobody can take that away from you."