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This statue on the quad of Syracuse University honors Ernie Davis. the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy. Davis was a two time All-American and the MVP of the Cotton Bowl in 1960. Ernie started his career at Syracuse as the only black player on the team as a freshman. Owing to his superior play, more African American players were invited to join the team. However, Davis' own success in football was cut short by the discovery of his cancer in 1962, the same year he was drafted first in the NFL. Davis passed away in 1963 and this statue was dedicated in 2008. The statue was modified shortly after its dedication after the discovery that the artist had inadvertently included a modern football helmet and shoes that included a Nike logo. The artist corrected the error and made the statue reflect the uniform and equipment that Davis wore while at Syracuse.


  • Ernie Davis Statue
  • Davis and Heisman Trophy

Ernie Davis was called the "Elmira Express," a reference to his hometown and the blazing speed that led the running back to become the a two time All-American, the MVP of the Cotton Bowl in 1960. and the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy in 1961. The following year, he was the first player taken in the NFL draft. 

David faced discrimination despite living in New York, and this was even more prevalent when he played games in the South. For example, even after being awarded the title of most valuable player at the Cotton Bowl, he was made to understand that he could only attend the awards banquet following the game if he left immediately after the ceremony.

Ernie Davis's athletic career was cut short by cancer in 1962 and he died in 1963 without ever having played a professional football game. In honor of Davis and his contributions to their athletic program both on and off the field, Syracuse University commissioned and installed this statue of Davis near the Ernie Davis Legends Field at the Carrier Dome.

Webb, Donnie. SU removes Ernie Davis statue, wraps it up and sends it back to the studio for modifications. Syracuse.com. October 08, 2008. Accessed December 24, 2018. https://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2008/10/su_removes_ernie_davis_statue.html.