DENVER -- At the apex of his fame, Terrell Davis boasted a simple blueprint to success. Eyes looking forward, patience shown, he put his foot in the ground and darted behind the center in the Broncos' zone blocking offense.
His path to the Pro Football Hall of Fame has not been as direct. Davis made the 16 finalists for the third time on Tuesday, hoping this is the year he crosses the goal line into Canton. Former Broncos safety John Lynch joined him along with one-time Broncos safety Brian Dawkins. Safety Steve Atwater, a former finalist, and linebacker Karl Mecklenburg did not make the cut.
The case for Davis follows the logic applied to baseball legend Sandy Koufax, who had the "left hand of God." Koufax burned bright for a short period, but his excellence could not be ignored, shoving him into Cooperstown. Davis presents a similar case even as he has been undermined by his career's brevity because of a knee injury.
As Andrew Mason of the Broncos' website points out, Davis represents the only player in league history to win league MVP, Super Bowl MVP and post a 2,000-yard rushing season.
In seven seasons, Davis rushed for 7,607 yards and 60 touchdowns in 78 games. He averaged 97.5 yards per game and 4.6 yards per attempt, Canton-worthy production. What's more, he played his best when it mattered most. In eight playoff games, he gained 1,140 yards with 12 touchdowns on 5.6 yards per attempt. He produced 142.5 yards per game in the postseason, a breathtaking stat with no peer. Only Hall of Famer Jim Brown averaged more yards per scrimmage per game than Davis during his career.
And yet Davis waits. Davis said he thinks about the honor more. Is this the year? He is moving closer with the elections of Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis.
"The longer you are out, the more you start to get a taste of it," Davis said. "You showed me the doughnuts. You brought me in a doughnut store and you're walking me around, I can see the glaze -- I'm a glazed doughnut person -- but you got the glass in front of me, you're letting me just smell it as they're baking them. Now I can smell it, but I can't taste them. That's where I am. Just imagine that feeling."
Lynch starred with the Broncos after winning a Super Bowl ring in Tampa Bay. He plays safety, traditionally a tough position to earn a path into Canton. Dawkins made it as a finalist on his first attempt, buoyed by his reputation as a vicious hitter and leader.