Throwback Thursday: Terrell Davis

Welcome back to our Throwback Thursday blog. Each week, we spotlight one of our favorite throwback superstars. We choose these stars using a rigorous scientific process we know in-house as “Whoever Nick Feels Like Writing About This Week Unless He Just Remembered It’s Salute to Service Month and We Haven’t Done One For That Yet.” This week’s pick is one of the greatest runners of the 1990s, and a hero of Bronco lore, Terrell Davis.

Let’s start with the Mile High Salute. Terrell Davis’ signature touchdown celebration.

What was it? Just a salute, performed after every touchdown.

Why is it called “Mile High?” Because he played in Denver, the Mile High City.

Why did he do it? According to him? Respect. Respect for the troops, primarily… but also respect for his team, his fellow running backs, his fans, and his city. Terrell Davis felt it was important to show them respect every time he hit paydirt.

They showed it right back. To this day, teammates, opponents, and fans alike speak of Terrell Davis with reverence. With reverie. With respect.

Not that he didn’t earn it, of course. Davis had a short prime—basically four years as injury robbed him of the back end of his career—but you’d be hard pressed to find a better four-year prime. During that stretch from 1995-1998, Davis produced four 1000+ yard seasons (including one 2000+ yard season), three First Team All-Pro selections, three Pro Bowl selections, two Super Bowl wins (1997 & 1998), a Super Bowl MVP (1997), and a regular season MVP (1998).

In his apex season (1998), Davis put up video game numbers including 2008 rush yards and 23 touchdowns. He led the league not only in total yards, but yards per attempt (5.1), yards per game (125), and approximate value (22). That he was able to put the cherry on top of that Superman sundae with both an MVP and a Super Bowl win makes it pretty easily one of the greatest single seasons by a running back in football history; only four other players have ever rushed for more, but none of them won the title when they did it.

That Davis was such a transcendent star in 1998 makes his fall in 1999 and beyond a bit more tragic. It’s never cool to see a great career cut short due to injury. But that loss also helps highlight just how special what Davis did actually was. Sure, he only really got half the prime most all-timer running backs get… but he did so much with it.

Over those four years, he finished 1st, 2nd, 2nd, and 9th in total rushing yards. That’s ludicrous. It would have been three 1st place finishes, but he had the bad luck to be playing at the same time as potential running back GOAT Barry Sanders. Still, it’s hard to imagine any player having more team or individual success over that length of time than Davis did. He squeezed every drop out of it, and he did it all with class.

So, in the spirit of Salute to Service month, we salute Terrell Davis. He’s earned it.

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