So was Garrison Hearst, who would finish third in the 1992 Heisman voting. Davis backed him up that year. The next season, after Hearst departed for the NFL, Davis rushed for 824 yards and was reminded constantly that he was no Hearst, no Rodney Hampton, no Herschel Walker.
During camp before his senior season, Davis felt a slight tear in his hamstring. After he missed a day or two of practice, coach Ray Goff "yelled at the trainers," Davis recalls. "He was ticked off. Why wasn't I out there?" Davis returned to practice before he felt ready, and he aggravated the injury. "So, after I've been in the training room for about a week," he says, "Goff comes in again, telling me if I don't practice this week, I can't play."
In a game against Tennessee early in the season, Davis reinjured the hamstring, this time severely. "I ripped it to shreds," he says. "I missed three games after that." He came out of his senior season with a disappointing 445 yards rushing, a reputation for being injury-prone and an aversion to Goff.
Then he ran a 4.7-second 40 at the '95 NFL scouting combine and thought, That's it, I'm a free agent. When the Broncos spared him that fate, he felt anger. "I was thinking, When you get drafted this late, all you are is camp meat," says Davis.
Camp meat is what players call the poor stiffs who have little or no chance of making the club, guys who give the veterans live bodies to collide with. It quickly became clear that Davis wasn't camp meat. He ran with authority and made a bunch of tackles on special teams. Covering a kickoff in a preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers, Davis eluded a blocker, then annihilated the ballcarrier. "Terrell knocked the guy back 15 feet," says Reggie Rivers, another Denver running back. "Just blew him up. It was incredible."
So was the speed with which Davis ascended the depth chart. He moved from fourth string in mid-July to first string on the eve of the season, winning the starting job with his talent and smarts. Says Broncos running backs coach Bobby Turner, "I tell my players, 'You're either coachable or you're a coach-killer.' You tell Terrell something once, he gets it. Tell him twice, he owns it. He's coachable."
Davis is an offensive lineman's kind of back, if such a thing exists. "When he goes through the line of scrimmage on a pass route," says Turner, "he's chipping those defensive linemen"—bumping them with a shoulder, then continuing on his route. "By the fourth quarter, hopefully, we're wearing down those tackles and ends. We like to help our linemen as much as we can." Denver's hogs would express their appreciation were it not for their policy of fining one another $25 for being quoted in print.
"Afraid not," said left tackle Gary Zimmerman when asked if he cared to comment about Davis.
"Can't risk the fine," said center Tom Nalen.
Against the Washington Redskins in his third NFL game, Davis scored three touchdowns, thus matching the number of TDs he amassed in two years at Lincoln. In addition to rushing for 1,117 yards as a rookie, he caught 49 passes for 367 yards. During the Broncos' bye week last season he made a triumphant return to Georgia. While on campus he saw Goff, who was later fired, but did not talk to him. "I'm afraid I might have been kind of rude to him," says Davis.