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The Express: The Ernie Davis Story (Redskins Related)

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New Football Movie! Looks like it's going to be great. A real heartwrencher. :)

Movie Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/universal/theexpress/

Ernie Davis (December 14, 1939 - May 18, 1963) was an American Football player who became the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Wearing number 44, Davis competed collegiately for Syracuse University before being drafted by the Washington Redskins then almost immediately traded to the Cleveland Browns in December 1961. However, the running back would never play a professional game after developing leukemia in 1962.

Info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernie_Davis

(MODs, if you feel this is more of a ATN or Tailgate topic, please move with my apologies)

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I'm pretty familiar with the story of Ernie Davis. After posting a 1-12-1 record in 1961, the Skins drafted Davis 1st in the 1962 draft and traded his rights to Cleveland for Bobby Mitchell and Leroy Jackson.

Something you may not know is that Davis was also drafted by the Buffalo Bills. Davis ended up signing with the Browns because owner Art Modell guaranteed his contract, something almost unheard of in 1962.

Spoiler alert below - read at your own risk:

Just before Davis was to play in the 1962 College All-Star Game, doctors removed his wisdom teeth. After the surgery, his mouth was not healing properly, so doctors ran some tests that revealed he was suffering from acute leukemia. Doctors originally gave him only a few months to live. Davis began treatment and the disease went into a brief remission. Through medication and his own will to live, Davis appeared to be getting better and even started working out with the team.

Unfortunately, the leukemia returned and Davis passed away on May 18, 1963 without ever playing a game for the Browns. He was only 23 years old. The Browns retired his number 45.

Ernie was a three sport star for Elmira Free Academy (renamed Ernie Davis Middle School in 1964) but he really excelled at football. At a time when many universities were not offering scholarships to black athletes, colleges from around the country watched Davis' high school career closely, and over 50 offered him scholarships, including Notre Dame and UCLA.

Davis chose to play football for Syracuse University, and went on to gain national fame for three seasons (1959-1961), twice winning first-team All-American honors. As a sophomore in 1959, Davis led Syracuse to the NCAA Division I-A national football championship, capping an undefeated season with a 23-14 win over Texas in the Cotton Bowl. That same year, Elmira Star-Gazette sports writer Al Mallette coined the nickname for Davis, the "Elmira Express." Davis was voted Most Valuable Player of the 1960 Cotton Bowl and the 1961 Liberty Bowl. In his junior year, he set a record of 7.8 yards per carry and was the third leading rusher in the country with 877 yards, having rushed 100 yards in 6 of 9 games.

Davis found racism still prevalent in the Deep South during his Cotton Bowl visit. At the banquet following the game, Davis was told he could only accept his award, and then would be required to leave the hotel. Davis refused and his teammates boycotted the banquet.

Ernie Davis became the first black athlete to be awarded the Heisman Trophy for the 1961 season during his senior year at Syracuse University. To date, Syracuse has had one national football championship and one Heisman trophy winner, and Ernie Davis was responsible for both. President John F. Kennedy had followed Davis' career and requested to meet him while he was in New York to receive the trophy. Later in 1963 when Elmira chose February 3 to celebrate Davis' achievements, Kennedy sent a telegram, reading:

"Seldom has an athlete been more deserving of such a tribute. Your high standards of performance on the field and off the field, reflect the finest qualities of competition, sportsmanship and citizenship. The nation has bestowed upon you its highest awards for your athletic achievements. It's a privilege for me to address you tonight as an outstanding American, and as a worthy example of our youth. I salute you."

He lived a pretty amazing life over his 23 years. The movie is sure to require a hanky or two.

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