SAN DIEGO — He was blind. He was scared. He closed his eyes and prayed.
"Please, when I open these again, let there be light. . . ."
Terrell Davis sat quietly on the Denver Bronco bench, the world exploding around him, but dark, all of it dark.
Somebody strapped an oxygen mask to his face. Somebody else grabbed his hand.
He thought, this is crazy. This isn't happening. Who goes blind at the Super Bowl?
It was the second quarter. He had already rushed for 54 yards and one touchdown against the Green Bay Packers.
He had been running through a hole, five yards from another touchdown, when Santana Dotson tripped him and somebody else kicked him in the head.
He blacked out for a few seconds. He woke up, climbed to his knees, dizzy.
The Bronco trainers helped him off the field. One play later he told them he was fine.
He went back in, ran for two yards, felt funny, went back to the bench.
Sat down and went blind.
"I couldn't see a thing," he said. "Nothing."
A longtime sufferer of migraines, he knew it was what doctors call an "aura," a weird, visual disturbance that usually occurs at the onset of the headaches.
He had suffered it many times before. But here? Now?
"I thought, man, not at the Super Bowl," he said.
He swallowed some migraine medication and closed his eyes.
"Yeah, I prayed," Davis said. "I was questioning . . . why was the Man putting this thing on me?"
Could it be because, after carrying all that, Gilbert Brown would seem like a lightweight?
That's what happened, of course. His vision returned after about 15 minutes and he rejoined the huddle in the third quarter.
Ninety minutes later, the scoreboard blared an announcement he will be seeing forever.
Terrell Davis, Super Bowl MVP.
"I'm numb, I'm numb," he said moments after fireworks exploded upon a field he plowed for 157 yards and a Super Bowl-record three rushing touchdowns.
It was a feeling shared by Green Bay defenders, their jerseys forever stained with his footprints after the Broncos' 31-24 victory.
With short legs and oversized courage, Davis carried the hopes of an old quarterback, an embattled conference and an oft-burned city into a perfect Southern California sunset.
It was tough work. When he was finished, sitting in front of his locker, still in full uniform an hour after the game, he wore more green than Mike Holmgren.
Grass stains filled the white "O" of his number 30, and covered both of his white pant legs. The color of money, he was.
And hungry too, such that he was unashamed to be chowing on a turkey sandwich and chips pilfered from a media box lunch. Braces and all.
"I'm still in shock, I still can't believe this happened," he said, then told a story about a dream.
Saturday night, lying in bed, he said he visualized a victory.
"The Nuggets won, that's how I knew we were going to win," he said, and then broke out laughing.
Did he also visualize winning the MVP?
"C'mon," he said, laughing again. "Are you kidding me?"
It was set up to be John Elway's win, maybe Shannon Sharpe's day, perhaps a vindication for the Bronco defense, but instead it went to the kid from San Diego's Lincoln High, and with delightful coincidence.
The last time the AFC won the Super Bowl, the MVP was another running back from the same high school, a guy by the name of Marcus Allen.
Expect the 25-year-old Davis, second in the NFL in rushing this season, to aim even higher?
"He reminded me of Jim Brown," teammate Derek Loville said.
"He was amazing," teammate Tony Jones said.
"He did exactly what we thought he would do," Packer Reggie White said.
And they still couldn't stop him.
Not when he got his head kicked at the end of the first quarter. Not when he lost a fumble on the first play of the third quarter.
And certainly not on the Broncos' game-winning drive, when everyone seemed tired but him, when he was seeing better than ever.
He cut through three defenders on a 17-yard run to the one, from where he scored untouched before standing rigid and offering the trademark Bronco salute.
By then, you wanted to salute back.
"The Bronco offensive line would go one way, set up, and he would run the other way," said Leroy Butler, Packer defensive back. "It was very effective."
So much that when when he sat in the locker room at halftime, his vision restored, he couldn't get any peace.
His teammates were begging him to play.
"I go up to him and say, 'Man, we really need you,' " Jones related. "I said, 'I know your headaches are back, but you can have those headaches tomorrow. We've got a Super Bowl to win.' "
Having overcome difficult times at Lincoln, Long Beach State and the University of Georgia before becoming the 196th pick in the draft, Davis knows something about opportunities.
"I was going to play," he said. "I knew I was going to play."
After he fumbled, his once-glassy eyes took on a different look.
"He came to the sideline with like, that deep stare," Loville said, widening his eyes. "It was a look like, 'I'm coming back, and I'll be even more effective.' "
Later, riding to the locker room on a golf cart, somebody handed him a Wheaties box containing photos of the Broncos. He held it at arm's length and smiled. Yeah, he could see just fine.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Terrell Davis rushed for 157 yards, fifth best in Super Bowl history, and set a record for rushing touchdowns with three. Top rushing performances:
* 204--Tim Smith, Washington vs. Denver, Super Bowl XXII
* 191--Marcus Allen, Los Angeles Raiders vs. Washington, Super Bowl XVIII
* 166--John Riggins, Washington vs. Miami, Super Bowl XVII
* 158--Franco Harris, Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota, Super Bowl IX
* 157--Terrell Davis, Denver vs. Green Bay, Super Bowl XXXII
* 145--Larry Csonka, Miami vs. Minnesota, Super Bowl VIII
* 137--Clarence Davis, Oakland vs. Minnesota, Super Bowl II
* 135--Thurman Thomas, Buffalo vs. New York Giants, Super Bowl XXV
* 132--Emmitt Smith, Dallas vs. Buffalo, Super Bowl XXVIII
* 121--Matt Snell, New York Jets vs. Baltimore, Super Bowl III