Ernest Davis (December 14, 1939 – May 18, 1963) was an American football running back and the first African-American athlete to win the Heisman Trophy. Wearing number 44, Davis competed collegiately for Syracuse University before being drafted by the Washington Redskins, then almost immediately traded to the Cleveland Browns in December 1961. However, he would never play a professional game after being diagnosed with leukemia in 1962. He is the subject of the 2008 Universal Pictures movie biography The Express, based on the non-fiction book Ernie Davis: The Elmira Express, by Robert C. Gallagher.
Davis was born in New Salem, Pennsylvania, and spent his early life in the Pittsburgh Coalfield, moving to industrial Uniontown, Pennsylvania, both in the metro Pittsburgh area. His parents separated shortly before his father died in an accident, and he was raised by his grandparents until age 12, when he moved with his mother and new stepfather to Elmira, New York. He played in Elmira's Small Fry Football League for the Superior Buicks and was named a Small Fry All-Star in both 1952 and 1953. He played basketball in grade school as well, also being chosen as an All-Star player.
Throughout his high school years at Elmira Free Academy, Davis' talent on the football field became clear. He was named Elmira Player of the Year and high school All-American in both his junior and senior years. He also showed great athletic prowess in varsity basketball and baseball, all while excelling academically.