"Football is just a game. What matters is what you play for."
Ernie Davis (1939 - 1963) was a talented, dedicated athlete and a role model both on and off the field. Born in New Salem, Pennsylvania in 1939, he moved to Elmira, New York with his mother and stepfather at the age of twelve. Though he starred in basketball, baseball, and football at Elmira Free Academy, Ernie approached every day as a team player.
Ernie played football at Syracuse University and in 1961 he became the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Ernie overcame tremendous adversity at a time when the United States was in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1962, Ernie was the first overall NFL draft pick, chosen by the Washington Redskins, but then almost immediately traded to the Cleveland Browns. Tragically, he was diagnosed with Leukemia and died at the age of 23, never having played in a professional game.
Despite such a short life, Ernie's legacy of teamwork, dedication, and respect lives on in the community.
Steele Memorial Library
Ernie Davis History by Yanek Mieczkowski