Terrell Davis turned his previous pain into a monumental gain. Davis, a Hall of Fame running back who won two Super Bowls with the Broncos, was trying to find an alternative to pain medication when he experienced post-workout pain during his post-playing career. In 2017, Davis decided to try CBD, an experience Davis has called life-changing.
“Almost immediately, I started to feel better,” Davis recently told CBS Sports. “I enjoy working out, but I don’t enjoy working out in pain. When I was trying CBD, I started to notice that if I was working out on a Monday and I’d wait for my knee to swell up or have some reverse reaction to it, and it wouldn’t happen. I could work out on Tuesday. It allowed me to push my body harder and recover faster.”
Davis’ experience launched an idea for a company that in 2019 became a reality. Davis is one of the co-founders of DEFY, the world’s first mainstream CBD built specifically for athletes and those who want to become better in the gym. Designed to aid rapid-muscle fiber recovery and clear-headed, hyper-focused training, DEFY offers naturally derived performance, recovery and rejuvenation for athletes of all levels.
“What if we can create a brand that’s reputable, that’s backed by science, that can be in your local grocery stores, your GNCs, and in NFL lockers that really just goes through the tests and looks like a high-level brand. And that’s where the idea came from,” Davis said. “DEFY is about defying the odds and breaking the mold. I wasn’t a sixth-round pick that became a Pro Football Hall of Famer without having to defy a whole lot of stuff.”
Davis certainly defied the odds in what was in many respects a storybook career. After being largely underutilized at Georgia, Davis rushed for more than 1,100 yards during his rookie season in Denver. He then enjoyed one of the greatest three-year runs by any player at any position. From 1996-98, Davis earned three All-Pro selections, won two Super Bowls, was named Super Bowl and league MVP, and became the fourth player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. The ’97 Broncos also overcame the odds to become the first AFC team in 13 years to win the Super Bowl, defeating Brett Favre and the defending-champion Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. Davis powered the Broncos’ upset win with 157 rushing yards and three touchdowns despite missing most of the second quarter with a migraine.
“The NFC’s [mentality] was, ‘Just show up and you’ll win the Super Bowl.’ And we felt all that,” Davis said. “Every single doubter was out there saying, ‘Same old Broncos.’ And we knew we were a totally different team. We were built different. We were more of an NFC style team with how we ran the ball. We were physical, and our defense was really good.”
Davis’ Broncos quickly went from underdogs to top dogs. The ’98 Broncos successfully defended their title with little resistance. After a 13-0 start, Denver finished the regular season with a 14-2 record. In the AFC playoffs, the Broncos defeated the Dolphins and Jets by a combined score of 61-13. With the Falcons keying on stopping Davis in Super Bowl XXXIII, John Elway passed for 336 yards while scoring two touchdowns in a 34-19 win in what was his the final game of his Hall of Fame career.
“We are one of the greatest teams to ever play,” Davis said. “When they do the rankings of the top 25 teams of all time, we’re always in there. I think last time I saw we were in the teens or something like that. We’re a team that could go play in any era [because] we weren’t a gimmick team. Sometimes you see a team that runs the Wildcat where they might be successful because they were new and no one saw that. Now you’ve got the RPOs where when they first started doing it, defenses couldn’t stop it. … We didn’t have anything gimmicky like that.
“We had really, really good players. We had outstanding coaching. We had a solid system. We had a combination of really unselfish guys who played for each other who didn’t really care who got the credit, and that’s rare. And we had a singular focus. We were the Patriots before the Patriots. They talk about the Patriot Way, well we had the Bronco Way. We had players who didn’t buy into that, and Mike [Shanahan] moved them out of there.”
Shanahan’s Broncos was largely a collection of overlooked yet motivated players. Along with Davis, the Broncos’ key offensive players in those years included undrafted receiver Rod Smith, journeyman receiver Ed McCaffrey, tight end Shannon Sharpe (a former seventh-round pick), fullback Howard Griffith (ninth-round pick), linemen Mark Schlereth (10th-round pick), Tom Nalen (seventh-round pick) and Tony Jones (undrafted). Defensively, the Broncos had a Hall of Fame safety in Steve Atwater, a nasty linebacker in Bill Romanowski, and an elite pass rusher in Neil Smith who came over from the rival Chiefs in order to win a Super Bowl.
“We didn’t have a lot of big names,” Davis said. “We had John, but John was at the end. And he didn’t care about throwing for 5,000 yards. He just wanted to win. You had that unselfishness and coaching. … So yeah, if we played in today’s game, absolutely, we would have beaten the Bucs last year.”
Davis sees parallels between his Broncos teams and the current situation in Pittsburgh. Like Elway, current Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is entering the twilight of his career. And while the Steelers will still ask him to step up and make plays from time to time, Davis believes that rookie running back Najee Harris will be key to any success Pittsburgh has in 2021.
“If you get 1,000 [rushing] yards as a rookie, that’s really good,” Davis said. “I’d also expect him to catch the ball quite a bit, too. The last really good running back they had was Lev Bell, and that’s what he did, he was a big part of their passing game. And the game is really moving that way.
“I do like him. He’s a big dude, but he is pretty loose for 6-foot-2, 230. You see the way he hurdles over people. He’s an athlete. I expect him to have 1,000. … There were moments where John had to win games for us, and it’s going to be the same with Ben.”
Davis feels good as far as his former team is concerned. That optimism has been buoyed with the reports linking Aaron Rodgers to Denver if he and the Packers split up before the start of the season.
“My take is I hope we get him,” Davis said. “It still seems like there is a possibility that he will not be in Green Bay and that Denver is the likely place for him to end up. And if that happens, that puts us right where we need to be. You’ve got Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes in that division. And our defense is going to be really good. “
Even if Rodgers doesn’t come to Denver, Davis feels that the Broncos can be an 11-win team in 2021. He has high hopes for rookie running back Javonte Williams, who will look to complement former Pro Bowler Melvin Gordon. Davis is also not ready to give up on quarterback Drew Lock, whose offseason preparation has included one-on-one film sessions with Peyton Manning.
“I am still really interested in what Drew Lock can do,” Davis said. “I don’t think we’ve seen everything he can do.”