Who Was the First Black Heisman Trophy Winner?

min read
In this Dec. 6, 1961 file photo, Syracuse university football player Ernie Davis holds his Heisman Trophy at the Downtown Athletic club in New York. A football taken from the upstate New York grave of Davis has been found. The football was discovered missing from its display case on March 15. The ball has disappeared several times previously, only to turn up later on the cemetery grounds. Davis was an All-American at Syracuse University and the first black player to win the Heisman.
(AP Photo/Jack Harris)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Jun 23, 2023, 1:22 PM

Ernie Davis was the first Black college football player to ever win the Heisman Trophy. He played running back at Syracuse, ultimately winning the Heisman for his outstanding 1961 season.

Davis attended Syracuse in part because he idolized former Orange running back Jim Brown. He would eventually eclipse Brown, breaking all of his records with 3,306 scrimmage yards and 35 touchdowns. 

Syracuse was the national champion in 1959. Davis was a consensus All-American in 1960, then a unanimous All-American in 1961, when he won the Heisman.

Davis was selected with the NFL’s first overall pick in 1962. Tragically, he never logged a professional game – he was diagnosed with acute monocytic leukemia, ultimately dying in May 1963 at age 23. 

He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979.

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.