May 18, 1963 - Ernie Davis, the only Negro ever to win the Heisman Memorial Trophy, college football’s highest award, died today after a 10-month battle with leukemia. He was 23 years old. Ernie Davis was a legend not only as a football player but also as a man — with deep pride, tremendous courage, and an exceeding gentleness and love of people. Few believed the 6-2, 210-pound halfback could fill the shoes of Jim Brown, the all-America fullback who graduated from Syracuse University 2 years before Davis arrived. Brown had set numerous records at the school and was already setting new marks with the Cleveland Browns. But Davis’s shoes were even bigger as he set about eclipsing every one of Brown’s yard-gaining records. In his 3-year college career, Davis gained 2,386 yards in rushing; Brown made 2,091. Davis scored 220 points to Brown’s 187. Davis was the top draft choice of both the NFL and AFL. He finally signed with the Cleveland Browns. The NFL club gave him a bonus of $15,000 and a 3-year contract for $65,000. The halfback never realized this dream. Last July, while working out for the College All-Star game against the champion Green Bay Packers, he fell ill and was hospitalized for what was first diagnosed as mononucleosis. After that, everything went downhill for Mr. Davis, although apparently he was not told the seriousness of his illness. For the next several months, no inkling was given that he would not recover. The only hint came when the Browns declined to put him on the active list for the 1962 season. His condition began to worsen about 10 weeks ago. It was not until last Thursday, however, that he entered Lakeside Hospital in Cleveland, where he died. Although Davis never played in a game for the Browns, the club today retired the number he wore in practice sessions, No. 45.
top of page
bottom of page