Tuesday, February 28, 2006 | Jerome Bettis’ Detroit homecoming that surrounded Super bowl XL was the feel-good story of the big game. Detroiters gave the Pittsburgh Steelers running back, a native son, the Key to the City.
Sorry, but the Super Bowl homecoming story has been done before in San Diego, and it was done as good as it gets.
Terrell Davis came home for Super Bowl XXXII as a Denver Broncos running back, but the Lincoln High alumnus did more than just merely play a role in the game played on Jan. 25, 1998 at Qualcomm Stadium. Davis was the Super Bowl MVP, leading the Broncos to an upset of the defending champion Green Bay Packers.
The next year Davis ran for 2,008 yards to lead the league in rushing, he was named the NFL MVP and he led the Broncos to a second straight Super Bowl title.
“TD” is one of only nine players in NFL history – along with Marcus Allen, another Lincoln alumnus – who have been named both a Super Bowl MVP and an NFL MVP.
My day job will keep me working tonight past sunset when Davis is inducted into the Breitbard Hall of Fame at the San Diego Hall of Champions’ 60th annual Salute to Champions dinner at the Town and Country Resort.
The Class of 2006 includes two-time Olympic gold medalist Gail Devers of Sweetwater High, Chargers Pro Bowl defensive lineman Louie Kelcher and Hoover High, USC and NFL lineman Volney Peters.
Adding Davis to San Diego’s Hall of Fame is a no-brainer.
But if you can believe this, there are football fans out there – some of them NFL writers entrusted with a Hall-of-Fame vote – who question whether Davis belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. They point to Davis’ career being prematurely ended by a knee injury after just four full seasons in the NFL.
Hmmm, some guy named Gale Sayers played only four full seasons in the NFL and the Chicago Bears running back was enshrined in Canton in 1971, his first year of eligibility.
Sayers had two 1,000-yard rushing seasons; Davis began his career with four straight – including his 2,000-yarder – before a season-ending knee injury in 1999 ultimately ended his career following the 2001 season. Davis is eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
I asked Mike Shanahan, Denver’s head coach now as well as for the Broncos’ Super Bowl title seasons, his thoughts. Although we’re no relation – I’m frequently asked if I’m related to him, while he tells me he’s asked if he’s related to Detroit Red Wings’ Brendan Shanahan – we do share an Irish surname and the same opinion about Davis’ Hall-of-Fame credentials.
His affirmation didn’t surprise me, of course. But I didn’t expect him to be so definitive.
“We won two Super Bowls with him, and he was the MVP of one those Super Bowls,” Mike said. “If he is not on our team, we don’t win those Super Bowls. That’s significant when you think about how long Denver has been a successful organization. We have not won the big one without him. What he brought to our team is unparalleled.”
Remember, the Broncos had lost four Super Bowls. Three were lost with John Elway at quarterback when he had no running game to complement him. Football fans actually questioned whether Elway had it in him to win the big game.
But Davis’ addition to the Broncos’ backfield as a rookie sixth-round draft pick in 1995 rounded out Elway’s resume with the two Super Bowl rings he wore upon entering the Hall of Fame in Canton.
The four full seasons Davis played were as dominant as any running back in the game’s history. He led the AFC in rushing three straight years (1996-98) in addition to an NFL rushing title. His 2,476 combined yards for the regular season and postseason in 1998 is an NFL record.
“I don’t think there is any question he belongs in the Hall of Fame,” Mike Shanahan said. “I believe 100 percent that TD is a Hall-of-Famer player. Guys like him make you a better coach.”
Eight years ago Terrell Davis came home for the Super Bowl in San Diego. It would have been nice if our City Fathers had given him the Key to the City similar to Bettis in Detroit, but Davis’ Super Bowl MVP and NFL MVP trophies should serve as his keys to Canton.
Tom Shanahan is Voice’s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions (www.sdhoc.com). You can e-mail him at
On Wednesday, he became the proud father of Jai Jai Lin Shanahan, a baby girl who arrived at 20 ¼ inches and 8 pounds, one ounce. Jai Jai means “The Best” and Lin “Beautiful Jade” in Mandarin. Coach Mike Shanahan said in a sidetrack to the interview for this story that he likes the name.