Ernie Davis, a young black athlete who overcomes adversity and racism, leads his college football program to a championship. Ernie Davis is a young black man living up north in the 1940s, where discrimination makes life difficult for him and his family. His mother can't afford to take care of him, so he lives with his grandfather, Pops. Pops shows Ernie the proper way to live, and he gives him a full education growing up. Eventually, Ernie's mom returns, with a new husband and the financial means to care for her child again. He moves to New York, where he signs up for a football league for kids and immediately starts dominating as the running back. Years pass, and Syracuse needs a new running back after the legendary Jim Brown graduates to go to the NFL. The Syracuse coach, Ben Schwartzwalder, finds tape of Ernie dominating in high school and, with Jim Brown's help, convinces Ernie to join their program. He instantly becomes a sensation, leading Syracuse to an undefeated season, leading to a showdown against Texas for the title. Despite hurting his leg in the middle of the game, and despite Southern officials refusing to give Ernie any beneficial calls due to his skin color, Ernie fights through, scores the important touchdowns, and wins Syracuse their first-ever national championship. He wins the Heisman Trophy, finds great continued success in college, and signs with the Cleveland Browns in the NFL. However, when he is told early in his professional career that he has been diagnosed with leukemia, it seems doubtful Ernie will ever live out his dream.
Best part of story, including ending:
It's not the most original or bold telling of a sports story, but it's still a terrific story, earnestly told, with a very sad ending.
Best scene in story:
I'm a sucker for the cliched "big heroic sports moment," and Ernie's ability to fight through the injury and racism against Texas is appropriately inspiring.
Opinion about the main character:
Ernie seems like he was an incredible young man of hard work, discipline, and strong character. Rob Brown does a good job depicting him.