The Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2014 will be enshrined on Saturday. Each day this week, the Around The League crew will pick a player who we believe is also deserving of enshrinement.
Terrell Davis' NFL career took the course of a dazzling firework: rising fast, blooming into a glittery brilliance that coaxed "ahh"s before melting into the night.
As a relatively unknown sixth-round pick, Davis burst into his teammates' consciousness with a monstrous special-teams tackle in a preseason game in Tokyo. This was his blastoff.
From there, the man fittingly known as T.D. put up an outstanding rookie campaign with 1,117 yards and seven touchdowns on just 237 carries. This was his flight.
The next three years, he flourished into that sparkling firefly.
Davis' three consecutive All-Pro seasons:1996: 1,538 yards, 13 touchdowns
1997: 1,750 yards, 15 touchdowns, Super Bowl MVP
1998; 2,008 yards, 21 touchdowns, NFL MVP, Super Bowl champion
After compiling four seasons that compare to any running back to open a career, injuries caused Davis -- in a puff -- to disappear like our celebrated firework, playing just 16 games during his final three seasons.
On this final fact sits the only semblance of reason Davis does not yet own a bust in the Hall of Fame. This argument, however, is abjectly deficient, patently lazy and cracks like an iPhone screen under pressure.
Since when has the magnificence of the loud boom been subject to the standards of the long wheeze?
The most heinous transgression in T.D.'s Hall of Fame candidacy is that in the seven years he has been eligible, the running back hasn't even made it down to the final 15. This means voters haven't even had the opportunity to discuss his merits.
This is like John F. Kennedy not making it out of the presidential primary -- only if it happened seven times.
Twelve players have won both Super Bowl MVP and regular season AP MVP awards in their careers. Seven of the eight eligible for the Hall have been elected: Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Marcus Allen, Emmitt Smith, John Elway and Steve Young.
Only Davis remains on the outside. And he can't even get in the debate room!
When T.D. eventually does get into that room, his resume will hold more than four fantastic seasons, two Super Bowl trophies and those MVP awards.
The football world often harps that postseason is where the best brandish their greatness. Davis is inarguably one of the greatest postseason running backs in NFL history.
The former Broncos back is tied with Emmitt Smith for most 100-plus-yard rushing games in the playoffs with seven. T.D. did it in eight games. Emmitt needed 17. Oh, and Davis' were accomplished in seven consecutive games (holding the record). The Broncos won every one of those contests.
Davis has the highest career playoff rushing average at 5.59 yards per attempt -- he averaged 142.5 yards per playoff game -- and ranks fifth in most career postseason touchdowns (12), in far fewer games than his colleagues, all of whom are in the Hall.
Also, there is the little matter of Elway never having won a Super Bowl without T.D. in the backfield. (SB XXXII stats: Davis 157 yards, three touchdowns; Elway 123 yards passing and an interception.)
Davis is not the only great player whose career was shortened. Gale Sayers famously had an injury-plagued career, and zero people would argue the former Chicago Bear is not a Hall of Famer. But I'm not here to analyze Sayers' career, I'm here to sing Davis' song.
In an age in which we admit the physicality of the NFL takes its toll and injuries can slice a man's career in two, we should be smarter than dismissing Davis' career because it ended abruptly. In every other way, his accomplishments hold up.
It's not called the Hall of Longevity. It's not called the Hall of Cumulative Stats. It's called the Hall of Fame. And for that brief, shimmering period, Terrell Davis lit up NFL skies as much as anyone with a bust.