How Football Legend Ernie Davis Left A Lasting Impact On Elmira, New York
Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love Syracuse sports. I've been a big fan of the Orange since I went to my first basketball game when the Orangemen took on Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas.
It was the game that cheerleader Michelle Munn (from Sayre) fell and fractured her skull when she landed hard on the floor. It changed cheerleading guidelines for many years after that. By the way, Michelle is married and doing fine and lives in Florida.
I'm also a big fan of the Syracuse Orange football team but there hasn't been much to cheer about lately but this could be their year to turn it around. No matter how they are doing now, they have a rich history of gridiron greats.
Did you know that one of the Cuse all-time greats lived just down the road from Binghamton? He wasn't only a local hero but he is one of the most important figures in ALL of sports history.
Syracuse Football All-Time Great Ernie Davis
I'm talking about Ernie Davis. Davis wasn't born in Elmira, but he moved to Elmira when he was 12 to live with his mom and stepfather. Davis became a three-sport athlete at Elmira Free Academy. He lead the Elmira Free Academy to a 52 game winning streak in basketball, and was given the nickname "The Elmira Express".
In 2011, it was announced that the two high schools in Elmira, Elmira Free Academy and Southside High School, would merge their sports teams and that a community-wide vote would be taken to come up with the new mascot.
The winner? The Elmira Express.
He would later go on to lead Syracuse to their only football national championship title in 1959. with Davis leading the Orangemen to a 23-14 win over Texas in the Cotton Bowl. That secured the national championship for the team and he won the MVP award. Bowl official said that only white players were invited to the dinner and Davis would have to leave after receiving his trophy. WOW! The Syracuse team refused to attend the affair.
In 1961, he would become the first black player to win the Heisman trophy and be the number one overall pick in the NFL draft. He was then promptly traded to the Browns and was expected to form a lethal running back duo with NFL legend Jim Brown. Unfortunately, he never got to see the field
Ernie Davis Dies of Leukemia
Davis was diagnosed with Acute Monocytic Leukemia in 1962. He died in Cleveland not too long after at the age of 23 -- a life cut way too short.
At a wake for Davis in Elmira, the community came out in droves -- where 10,000 people allegedly paid their respects. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira.
Even though his life was cut short, his legacy lives on today. There is a middle school, park, and community center in Elmira named after him.