For Terrell Davis, playing in 1998’s Super Bowl XXXII was a dream come true — that is, until a debilitating migraine almost turned it into a nightmare.
Caught up in the excitement of the day, the former Denver Broncos running back — who has suffered from migraines for much of his life — had forgotten to take his preventative medicine during his pre-game meal two hours before kickoff.
“So we have 15 minutes tops before the game starts, and it dawns on me that I forgot to take it,” Davis, 46, tells PEOPLE. “I went and I took it then, but it was just too late.”
A migraine eventually came on and forced Davis to sit out of the second quarter of the game. He didn’t let it stop him for long, though, as he was back on the field after halftime.
“Once it happened, I wasn’t going to let it rob me of my chance to be me for that day because I could never live past that,” he says. “I was like, ‘There is no tomorrow — this is it.’”
Davis’ skill during the remainder of the game earned the Broncos the championship title against the Green Bay Packers and also earned him the title of MVP. Almost 20 years later, in 2017, Davis was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.
“By this happening to me on such a public forum, it was also a tool to affect other people’s lives in a way that I didn’t realize,” he says. “Most of the fan mail [I got was] talking about migraines and thanking me for bringing this thing to the forefront.”
Davis got his first migraine at football practice when he was only 9 years old. At the time, he started having trouble seeing and didn’t know what was going on.
“I was staring into the sun and then trying to focus on something,” he recalled during the Migraine World Summit in March. “I remember my heart started pounding because I thought, at the time, I was going to go blind.”
Davis’ mom picked him up from practice and as soon as he got home, he started getting a pounding headache.