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Running Up to the Top
Monday, October 17, 2011, at 9:03am
First black Heisman Winner, a National Championship, 1st round draft pick, and a nickname unforgettable, The Elmira Express, Ernie Davis is one of the best players of all time.
Ernie Davis was one of the best prospects in the nation when he was coming out of high school. He was recruited heavily by top notch schools, but he decided the best place for him was at Syracuse University.
Davis’s second year (sophomore) at Syracuse, he was the starting running back. He broke Jim Browns rushing yards, touchdowns, and scoring. But he really didn’t get known until the Orangeman faced the Texas Longhorns in the 1960 Cotton Bowl. (Back then, the National Championship) The Orangeman went on to beat Texas 23-14, but Davis’s real success came two seasons after.
In Ernie’s last year at Syracuse, Davis really shocked the world in what he did next. In his last season, Davis was faster, and stronger than ever before. He was such a splendid that season; he was put onto the Heisman watch list. The Heisman watch list means he could end up winning the Heisman Trophy. In past history of the trophy NO black person before has EVER EVER won the Heisman trophy before. Ernie Davis was one of the finalists for the it.
Ernie Davis came out on top. He had won the Heisman Trophy. He was the first black person to win the exciting trophy. He had changed college football as we know it. All the black people are not lower than white people because of Ernie. But Davis’s journey didn’t stop there.
After the great Heisman win, Davis had to look forward to his time in the National Football League. (NFL) Ernie wanted to play for the Cleveland Browns. He might just do that.
When it became draft time, Ernie Davis was excited for it. Cleveland wanted to get Davis to contribute to their already great running back core which already involved Jim Brown. Davis wanted to play for them.
Cleveland traded away two first round draft picks just so they could get Mr. Davis. The Browns got their wish but, was it really worth wasting two first round drafts picks just so they could get one star player?
It was the fall of Davis’s rookie year. He had spent the off season working out and getting ready for his rookie season in the NFL. But that quickly changed when Ernie started to get sick. He got so sick that he couldn’t even play anymore. He couldn’t play until he got better.
Later that fall they finally found out what the disease was, he was diagnosed with acute monocytic Leukemia.
“Sometimes when the game is close and the play is the roughest, you forget the crowed and the noise, and it is just you against somebody else to see who is the better man.” (Qtd in Time Magazine). Ernie Davis has conquered ever opponent before this, but could Davis hold on for this one last battle?
In the next couple of months it got worse. Ernie Davis died on Saturday, May 18, 1963. He never got to play a down in a Browns jersey. Even though he didn’t even play for them, the Cleveland Browns retired his jersey number 44.
That’s the thing about Ernie Davis—he was once one of the premiere players of his time, but now left for dead, dead of his Leukemia that killed him before he could ever play a down in the National Football League.
In Memory of Ernie Davis