Take nothing for granted. That was one lesson. Take nothing from nobody. That was another. There was a lesson on how to load guns the right way. There was a lesson on how to use the pocket knives Joe Davis bought for his sons to take to school. He would wrestle with the boys, slap them, throw hammerlocks on them, push a finger so hard into their chests that it felt as if it would come out the other side. How do you like that? Huh?
There were light moments, too. Joe would sing along to the Temptations or Al Green, tell jokes, buy gifts, go to the boys' games in any sport. But the light moments were followed by the dark. Thunder could arrive at any time.
One night in the fall of 1981 Joe came home, awakened his four youngest sons and had them stand along a wall of their bedroom. He was holding his gun, a .38 with black electrical tape around the grip. He said he wanted to find out how tough the boys really were. He raised the gun, aimed and fired a bullet over each boy's head. The bullets came so close, the boys could feel the hot air as it passed over their hair. Plaster flew off the wall. The smell of cordite filled the room. Joe Davis turned and left.
"We all just stood there, shaking," Terrell's brother Reggie says.
"I wasn't scared," Terrell says. "I knew he wasn't going to kill us. He wouldn't do that. He loved us too much."
This was just another lesson.
No one knew that the running back from the University of Georgia would be the answer. No one even suspected. He was another nobody from nowhere in the summer of 1995. A starter by the end of training camp? Super Bowl MVP by the end of his third season? The man with a nine-year, $56 million contract by the start of his fourth season? No one knew. Not even the running back from Georgia.
He was a sixth-round draft choice. Twenty running backs had been taken before him, 195 players. He was listed sixth and last on the Denver Broncos' depth chart. His goal was to make the practice squad. He was shocked to learn that the practice squad had only five players. He thought there would be 22, a backup at every position. Five?
Every day was another tryout. Every play. He'd never had to fight his way onto any team. He tried to finish off every block. He tried to catch every pass. He tried to run to every prescribed hole. Was anybody watching? Did anybody care? He could not control that. All he could do was keep moving, fast and hard. All he could be was himself. Nobody from nowhere? Everybody comes from somewhere.
He knew how far he had traveled.