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Phillip Lindsay is already a legend in this town for a multitude of reasons. A kid from Aurora, Colorado, who became the leading rusher in the history of Denver high-school football, a Colorado Buffalo who restored the program back to winning while setting the school’s record for all-purpose yards and now, of course, the star of the Denver Broncos offense.
His legacy is already undeniable, but Phillip Lindsay’s journey is far from over, and he’s starting to emulate one of his heroes in an uncanny fashion.
Terrell Davis and Lindsay couldn’t be more different stylistically as runners. Lindsay’s quickness and burst are unique, much like his ability to run up the middle and take on contact at his tiny 190-pound frame.
Davis, on the other hand, was a load to take on, a one-cut back who’d slowly kill defenses with one chunk play after another, a downhill monster who could also make house calls.
Their paths to NFL stardom, however, are all too similar.
Davis was a sixth-round draft pick who, by the time he played in his first preseason game as a pro, was down and out, feeling like he might just quit football then and there. Lindsay wasn’t even invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, eventually going undrafted despite his legendary career with the Buffs.
Both had seemingly insurmountable mountains to climb to become the starting running backs for the Broncos as rookies, but somehow, they both defied the odds and did.
More than 20 years apart, their paths are similar and whether it’s by design or simple adoration, Lindsay’s called back to TD as often as he can. From seeking out the Hall of Famer’s blessing to wear his No. 30 jersey to bringing back the Mile High Salute, the Colorado native who grew up with Davis’ autobiography on his nightstand has paid tribute every way he can.
The commonalities became even greater this past week, as Lindsay played through the flu only to have his best game as a pro against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in a big win that couldn’t have been possible without his 110 rushing yards.
Davis himself had his most iconic performance as he played through, and was limited by, a migraine headache in Super Bowl 32, winning MVP and setting a Super Bowl record with three rushing touchdowns.
Lindsay has yet to reach anything close to the MVP and back-to-back Super Bowl-winning highs that Davis achieved in his short but masterful career. However, the early stages of their pro careers are oddly similar.
In 1995, when Davis took Denver by storm, he ended the regular season with 1,117 rushing yards, Lindsay is on pace for 1,134. Davis scored eight touchdowns as a rookie, Lindsay already has seven. Davis “only” averaged 4.7 yards per carry while Lindsay is averaging 5.7. TD ended the season with 1,484 all-purpose yards, Phil is on pace for 1,406.
The beauty is Davis and Lindsay have a brotherhood with each other, a common bond that comes when you’ve been disrespected time and time again, told that your dreams were unrealistic only to prove people wrong every step of the way.
They’re beloved players because they inspire the common man. Their stories transcend football, their paths to greatness are universal, stories that are easy to appreciate and relate to for anyone who’s been told they couldn’t do what they loved.
Davis’ story will always have a sad ending to it, a star without equals in his day in the league cut short in his prime due to injury. Any Broncos fan who thinks back to his career will always think ‘what could’ve been’ if the original No. 30 could’ve played out his career and given us a few more years of vintage runs.
Lindsay isn’t the same, he’s far from a facsimile of Davis, but in a sense, he’s filling a gaping hole in the hearts of those who remember watching TD and wish they could’ve seen him one last time.
Phil Lindsay has given Broncos Country a second chance, one more opportunity to watch No. 30 in Orange & Blue run wild and celebrate trips to the end zone with the Mile High Salute.
Enjoy Lindsay while you can Broncos fans, soak him in and appreciate the opportunity we’ve been given here. Lighting rarely strikes twice, it never strikes a third time.