Denver's No-Flash Back: Terrell Davis Just Wants to Keep His Head Down

By Samuels, Allison; Starr, Mark | Newsweek, January 11, 1999 | Go to article overview

Denver's No-Flash Back: Terrell Davis Just Wants to Keep His Head Down


Samuels, Allison, Starr, Mark, Newsweek


He had his first taste of football stardom at the age of 8 when he earned the nickname "Boss Hogg" as a bowl-'em-over running back on a Pop Warner team in San Diego. So Terrell Davis was thrilled to accompany his Denver Broncos teammate John Elway to see John's son play in a Pop Warner game. The parents and kids may have become blase about seeing the superstar quarterback, but they thronged Terrell, seeking autographs, handshakes, even hugs. Davis, 26, still a reluctant star in his fourth NFL season, was so nonplused by the attention that he fled the field. "I don't think I've completely mastered the idea of being famous yet," says Davis.

Fame has become an increasing predicament for Davis since the Broncos' upset win over Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII. The victory will be remembered as the crowning achievement of Elway's Hall of Fame career, but it was Davis who earned the MVP trophy. "Terrell is, no question, the greatest back I've ever played with," says Elway, who had been 0 for 3 in Super Bowls before Davis's arrival. Beginning this Sunday, the pair takes aim at an encore, following a season in which Davis became the fourth NFL rusher ever to surpass 2,000 yards. He achieved that milestone in the regular-season finale with the same grit he displayed in the Super Bowl, where he returned after missing the second quarter with a severe migraine. "I had a sore back, bruised ribs, but I had to go out there and give it all I had to get those yards," he said.

In an arena where ego is often confused with accomplishment and flash passes for class, Davis is a rare embodimentof old-fashioned virtues. He boasts no tattoos, wears no jewelry and prefers jeans and a casual shirt to the stylish three-piece suits that abound in the locker room. He is lots of work and little play: he celebrated the Super Bowl victory with some vanilla ice cream in his room. And when People magazine sought to anoint him the year's sexiest athlete, he politely declined. "That's so, so not me," he says.

Davis is, rather, a bit of a loner who high-tails it home after practice and whiles away evenings with music, movies and videogames. "What can I tell you? I'm a boring person. But I like just chilling," he says. "I don't have a wife and kids, so it's just me, and I like it like that." He does, however, have five older brothers, several of whom have lived with his mother in a house Terrell purchased in Denver right around the corner from his own. Davis plans to start his own construction firm so that his brothers, who have struggled, can attain a little of the security he now enjoys. He even intends to take a plumbing apprenticeship this summer so he can work alongside them in the off season.

Terrell can even put a happy spin on the family's troubled saga. He recalls the wholesome fun--Little League games, go-carting and his dog, Bonnie--as well as his father's drunken rages. Davis is matter-of-fact when recounting the times police were called to the house because of his father's violent outbursts, even that one occasion when his father lined them up against a wall and fired shots over their heads. He blames the disease--alcoholism--not the man. "My father was a wonderful man who loved us," says Davis. What others call abuse, Terrell sees as an attempt "to make us men, to toughen us. …

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