CANTON, OHIO - The proud legacy of Joe Davis was on the Pro Football Hall of Fame stage here Saturday night.
Joe Davis passed away from lupus at just 41 years old in 1985 but his spirit was very much alive through the words of his youngest son’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
Terrell Davis, who had four great years as a Denver Broncos’ running back from 1995-98, talked about his always tough, sometimes harsh father near the beginning of his 27-minute speech and to close.
“There was one special person I was determined to prove myself to,’’ Davis said. “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.’’
Always well-spoken whether getting interviewed as a player and former player or working as an analyst for the NFL Network, Davis stood strong on the podium and held his poise even as the teleprompter of his speech malfunctioned for about 20 seconds.
It was mostly a commanding, straightforward talk as Davis mixed in plenty of his familiar stories while also thanking coaches and teammates from childhood, high school, college and the Broncos.
He mentioned how he began suffering from debilitating migraines at 9 years old, how he quit playing football after his father died, how staring down a barrel of a shotgun scared him back to the game at 14.
“Thank God someone talked the guy out of pulling the trigger,’’ Davis said. “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 I would never find myself in that situation again. I knew that I had to change my life. … That night I was determined to walk away from the irresponsible life I had been living forever.’’
He relayed how he nearly quit his rookie year of 1995 when the Broncos were playing a preseason game in Tokyo only to be saved by a language barrier with the front desk person.
“I was there when he was trying to make that call in Japan to try and get a flight out of there and quit,’’ said his roommate at the time, former Bronco tight end Byron Chamberlain. “And maybe sell insurance or something. He did not make it. I always tell him I’m glad he never took Japanese in college.’’
Davis thanked George Allen, his Long Beach State coach during Davis’ redshirt season. Allen died after that season, and a year later, the college dropped its football program.
“Coach Allen I know your listening, it was an honor to play for you,’’ Davis said.
Davis transferred to Georgia, where a torn hamstring spoiled his senior year, although he did return to finish with four strong games.
“To Bulldog fans, I want to say it one more time, ‘Goooooooo Dogs! Sic ‘em! Rrr, Rrr, Rrr, Rrr!’’
He then moved on to his remarkable four-season run with the Broncos. He thanked his teammates, offensive line, coaches Mike Shanahan, Gary Kubiak and Bobby Turner; trainer Steve “Greek” Antonopulos; quarterback John Elway and owner Pat Bowlen.
“Now Mr. B is at home right now fighting a courageous battle against Alzheimer’s,’’ Davis said. “A few weeks from now (on August 25), the Hall of Fame selection committee will be voting on the contributor category. Let’s make sure that this champion is enshrined in 2018.’’
That drew perhaps the loudest applause of his speech.
His children drew the biggest laughs. As he addressed his youngest son and middle child Myles, the camera caught the young boy smiling and waving a box of candy, oblivious to his dad’s speech. The camera also caught daughter Dylan looking at her cell phone as her dad was expressing his love for her.
He finished by thanking his mom, Kateree, and his father, Joe.
“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 had been shot or stabbed,’’ Davis said. “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.
“Dad I hope you're looking down, smiling, and uttering the words, ‘Son, I’m proud of you.'"
Davis concluded his speech by delivering his patented Mile High Salute to the audience.
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