Originally created 11/08/96

Ex-Dog overcomes detractors



Terrell Davis doesn't consider himself a vindictive person. That's why he refuses to gloat now that his doubters have been proven wrong. That's why he bit his tongue the last time he saw Ray Goff.

This was just over a year ago. Davis, then a rookie running back with the Denver Broncos, was back in Athens during a bye week to see his old Georgia mates play Florida.

Maybe an hour or so before kickoff, Davis made his way to the locker-room area at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs were headed to a team meeting, but several players stopped to chat with Davis. So did several assistant coaches.

Then Goff came around the corner. Davis looked up. For a brief moment his eyes met those of his former head coach, the man he felt tried to sabotage his professional career. One can only imagine the figurative daggers flying in either direction right then.

"I didn't say anything to him because I knew if I did it would be real rude," Davis says Thursday from Denver. "I wanted to yell out and say, `Look, Goff. See me now?' But I couldn't do that."

Instead, Goff turned his head, pretended he didn't see Davis and sauntered past without breaking stride.

Time passes. Situations change. But painful memories stick with you.

For three years Davis and Goff butted heads. The transfer from Long Beach State had a world of ability, but it rarely translated into production.

The native San Diegan sat behind Lincolnton's Garrison Hearst in 1992, then could manage just 1,269 yards combined his final two seasons. Davis' senior year, things got ugly. Groin and hamstring injuries kept him on the sidelines much of the time. Goff thought Davis was soft.

Davis says the former Georgia coach would mock him at every opportunity, often in front of other players.

"Real derogatory stuff," Davis says.

When NFL scouts came around, Davis claims, Goff would steer them elsewhere. Goff locked up the film room when they wanted to see Davis' few highlights. He badmouthed the gifted back who had done so little to save the coach's job.

Davis says a scout told him what Goff said about him.

"It," says Davis, "was something like, `Yeah, he's all right, but he won't make it. He won't cut the mustard."'

It should be noted that Davis had an awful showing at the NFL Scouting Combine. His 40-yard dash could have been timed with an hourglass, his broad jumping was brutal. That, combined with Goff's kibosh, helped Davis last for six rounds and 196 picks before Denver finally took a flier.

Eighteen months later, Davis has made a lot of people - including the ex-Georgia coach - look silly. His 979 rushing yards lead the entire NFL. Sunday against the Chicago Bears, Davis almost certainly will notch his second straight 1,000-yard season.

The Broncos are 8-1, rolling. Davis even has a new contract that suits his status - five years, $6.8 million. It would be easy for him to gloat. Instead, he expresses sadness.

"It was always a strange relationship with Coach Goff," Davis says. "To this day I still don't know why. Maybe it was because I was from California. Or he saw me as a person who was nonchalant. I don't know, but for whatever reason, we never really clicked."

Look, Goff. See him now?