I watched this film on the evening of the inauguration of President Obama. It was a good choice considering the emotions of the day. The film is about Ernie Davis also known as the Elmira Express who was the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy. Ironically, Davis was awarded the honor in the birth year of the President, 1961.
This film is a great sports story by it is most importantly a story of the civil rights problems of the 60’s and a man who conquered prejudice. The viewer is given insight into the struggles of the Black players on the team and the gross indignities they suffered everywhere but especially when playing teams in the South.
Ernie Davis is played by an exciting young actor, Rob Brown, who, hopefully, is destined to go far in his profession. His first major film was Finding Forrester in which he impressively played the writing prodigy. Eight years later, a more mature Brown gives insight into the personality of Davis who was a man strong in principle and will.
Dennis Quaid is especially good as Coach Ben Schwartzwalder who guided Davis in his career. Quaid is the perfect type to play the no-nonsense coach that Schwartzwalder was.
Ernie Davis died at the very beginning of his professional career which, according to the experts, would have been phenomenal, but he left a favorable mark upon the attitudes toward African Americans in this country and provided one more stepping stone to that boy who was born just a few months before Davis was awarded the Heisman.