Davis was drafted by the Broncos in the sixth round (196th pick overall) of the 1995 NFL Draft. He is the Denver Broncos all-time leading rusher, with 7,607 rushing yards. As a player, he was given the nickname "T. D." by players, fans and the media; this denoted both the initials of his first and last name as well as being an abbreviation for touchdown.
Davis was born to nurse Kateree Davis, a mother of eight children. In his senior year at Lincoln High School, the coaches gave him a chance at fullback, in a three back formation. He was given playing time in other positions, including kicker, and helped lead his team to a 12-2 record. Davis set the Lincoln Prep record in the discus throw as a member of the track team. After graduation, Davis went on to play football at Long Beach State University. His brother Reggie Webb was a tailback there before him, and he persuaded the school to grant Davis a scholarship.
At Long Beach State, Davis joined the football team that was coached by former Washington Redskins coach George Allen. He redshirted his freshman year in order to give him an extra year of eligibility. Davis never played an official game for coach Allen, because Allen died after the end of 1990 season. Davis played the following season and rushed for 262 yards on 55 carries. Long Beach State eliminated its football program due to budget concerns at the end of the 1991 season. Davis transferred to the University of Georgia. During his first season with the Georgia Bulldogs, Davis backed up future NFL starting running back Garrison Hearst. After Hearst graduated, Davis became the top running back during the 1993 season, and rushed for 824 yards on 167 carries. Davis' senior season at Georgia got off to a rocky start when he aggravated a tear in his hamstring muscle against Tennessee early in the season, which took him out of the lineup for three games. Davis ran for 445 yards on 67 carries that year, but in his last two games, he rushed for 113 and 121 yards, respectively. After the season, he was invited to Blue-Gray Football Classic game. Davis' reputation for being injury-prone hurt his standing in the NFL draft, along with the fact that Coach Goff denied scouts game film of Davis. Davis graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Consumer Economics.
In 1995, newly appointed Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan drafted Davis in the 6th Round of the 1995 NFL Draft. Davis entered training camp as the sixth string tailback and was a long shot to make the team. He managed to impress the Broncos coaching staff after his second pre-season game, most notably with a crushing hit as a member of special teams. Davis kept improving with each pre-season game and was promoted to starting running back for the season's opening game. With Davis at running back, the Broncos possessed the potent running attack that they had previously lacked. Davis started 14 games during the 1995 season, carrying the ball 237 times, averaging 4.7 yards per run, and scoring eight touchdowns. Davis finished his season with a total of 1,117 rushing yards, becoming the lowest drafted player to ever gain over 1,000 yards rushing in his rookie season.
In 1996, Davis signed a lucrative new five-year contract with the Broncos that was worth $6.8 million. That season, he rushed for a total of 1,538 yards and set a Denver Broncos record for rushing touchdowns with 13. The Broncos ended that season with a 13–3 record, tied with the Green Bay Packers for the best in the NFL that year.
Following the 1997 regular season, The 12-4 Broncos made it through the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl. Not only had the Broncos lost in each of their four previous Super Bowl appearances, but the AFC conference had a 13-year losing streak in Super Bowls against the NFC. In the Super Bowl, Davis rushed for 157 yards, caught two passes for 8 yards, and became the first player in Super Bowl history to score three rushing touchdowns. This performance earned him MVP honors despite having to sit out the second quarter due to a migraine, an affliction from which he has suffered since childhood.
Super Bowl XXXIII was the last postseason game in which Davis would play. In his 8 postseason games from 1996 to 1998, his numbers were staggering: 204 carries for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with 19 receptions for 131 yards. This included a streak of 7 consecutive games with over 100 rushing yards, all of which the Broncos won, breaking the previous record for consecutive 100 rushing yard postseason games held by John Riggins (6). Even in the sole playoff game in which Davis didn't gain 100 rushing yards, he still had an impressive performance, rushing for 91 yards and a touchdown and catching 7 passes for 27 yards.
Davis was sent to the Pro Bowl in the 1996, ’97, and ’98 seasons. Nicknamed “TD,” Davis popularized the “Mile High Salute,” a military-style salute given to fans and teammates in celebration of a touchdown.
In 2000, Davis was sidelined for all but five games because of a stress reaction injury in his lower leg. In 2001, he only played in eight games because of arthroscopic surgery on both knees.
Davis retired during the preseason of 2002. He walked through the tunnel in uniform for the final time during a preseason Denver-San Francisco 49ers matchup held at Invesco Field at Mile High. To a standing ovation, he gave a mile-high salute to the fans and was hugged by his teammates. After walking to midfield as the lone Broncos player at the coin toss, Davis retreated to the sideline. He spent the second half in street clothes. The following week, upon his request, he was placed on injured reserve, ending his season and effectively ending his career.
Through his first four seasons, Davis rushed for 6,413 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and 56 touchdowns. Among the 24 modern-era Hall of Fame halfbacks and fullbacks, only Earl Campbell (6,457, 4.6 yards per carry) and Eric Dickerson (6,968, 4.8 yards per carry) had more rushing yards during their first four seasons; no member of the Hall of Fame matched Davis’ first-four-season 56 rushing touchdowns. Davis was selected for ESPN's All-Time 40-Man Super Bowl roster as a running back for his performances in Super Bowls XXXII & XXXIII.
Overall, Davis finished his 7 NFL seasons with 7,607 rushing yards, 169 receptions for 1,280 yards, and 65 touchdowns (60 rushing and 5 receiving). He, John Elway and Peyton Manning are the only three Broncos named league MVP. Davis is one of only six players ever to rush for more than 1,000 yards in the postseason (1,140), and out of the six he is the only one to do so in a career that lasted less than 12 seasons.
Davis currently resides in Temecula, California, with his wife Tamiko Nash. He wrote an autobiography titled TD: Dreams in Motion after his first Super Bowl victory. A chapter was later added to the book covering his NFL MVP season and second championship win.
Davis was on the cover of the video game NFL GameDay 99 by 989 Sports. He made an appearance in Madden NFL 2006, serving as the player's mentor in the new NFL Superstar Mode and adds his voice to the game.
On July 27, 2007, it was announced that Davis would be inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame. His induction ceremony took place at Invesco Field at Mile High on September 23, 2007, in a Broncos home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In 2006, Davis was inducted into the Breitbard Hall of Fame. In January 2015 Terrell Davis was named a finalist for 2015 Football Hall of Fame Class
Davis appeared on Sesame Street in a skit with Elmo and a talking football. Elmo called Davis "the man" and Davis responded, "Thank you, thank you. I try!" The episode was filmed in December 1998 in New York, and Davis said on the episode of America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions profiling the 1998 Broncos that he was originally supposed to film the episode the day after Denver's Week 15 matchup with the New York Giants which was played in Giants Stadium in New Jersey. The plan was for Davis to stay behind in New York for the day while the rest of the team flew home, assuming that the Broncos would win. However, because the Giants defeated the Broncos, Davis had to return to Denver for a Monday practice/film session with the team and then fly back to New York the next day to film his parts.
In 2001, Davis was named in the Atlanta's Gold Club federal prostitution, fraud and racketeering trial. The owner, Steve Kaplan, initially denied accusations of arranging dancers for athletes, claiming that he was unaware of any sexual encounters. Employee Jana Pelnis testified that she had sex with Davis in the club. Kaplan later pleaded guilty and was fined $5 million. A sentence of three years in jail was put on the table, but Kaplan instead received a sentence of 16 months and 400 hours of community service. Davis was never charged with any criminal wrongdoing. However, Campbell Soups dropped him from their advertising shortly thereafter.
In September 2006, Davis filed a lawsuit against Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co. for breach of contract over its refusal to defend him in a lawsuit related to a tussle at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. A judge dismissed Davis' suit against Liberty Mutual in January 2007 after both parties reached a settlement. In the lawsuit against the Roosevelt, Davis claimed he was roughed up by two bouncers during a party at the hotel's Tropicana Bar in October 2005. Davis said he suffered a bruised neck and damage to a surgically repaired hip.