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“The Express” The Ernie Davis Story Movie Review


Written By Rhonda Ridley

Rated : PG
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Release Date: 2008-10-10
Starring: Rob Brown, Dennis Quaid, Charles S. Dutton, Darrin Dewitt Henson
Directed by: Gary Fleder
Produced by: John Davis
Written by: Charles Leavitt

”Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
- KJV - Proverbs 22:6

This scripture presupposes that parents have, themselves, been trained up in the way that they should go. Only then could they properly train up their children, correct? Parents want to believe that the many resources, tips and advice they’ve been given to raise their children will be the strongest foundational influence they’ll need; and it will be. However, if it’s flawed and more than likely it is, then what? The only way to be sure that your children are trained up properly, is to be certain that the Bible is the training manual.

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In the movie, “The Express,” based on the Robert Gallagher book, “Ernie Davis: The Elmira Express,” Ernest “Ernie” Davis (Rob Brown) was raised for the first 10 years of his life by his Grandparents in rural Uniontown, Pennsylvania. His grandfather, Willie “Pops” Davis (Charles S. Dutton) a quiet and gentle coalminer, was the father that Ernie never had and a man intent on living his life and raising his family by the Bible. Dedicated to his Lord and the legacy of his family, Pops Davis made sure his grandson knew the characteristics of God and hoped he’d carry these traits with him throughout life.

As a young boy, Ernie, who stuttered, witnessed pervasive racism yet he was inspired by a young Jackie Robinson who was with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He noticed that Jackie was making his mark in the prejudiced world without saying a word. People loved and respected him. Sort of like his grandfather; tender and powerful. It was then that Ernie reconciled that he was meant for more than working the Pennsylvania coal mines with his grandfather and cousin.

During this very delicate time in history and influential time in his life, Ernie’s mother returned to take him back home with her to Elmira Texas. Although leaving the comforts of his home to venture into the unknown, Ernie did not leave what he was taught in Pennsylvania, he took it with him to Texas.

Once in Elmira, Ernie began playing football and quickly became the most scouted running back of his time.

As Ernie approached high school graduation, Syracuse Head Coach Ben Schwartzwalder remarkably played by (Dennis Quaid) was a tenacious coach who was determined to recruit Ernie despite the competing coaches‘ many efforts. With the help of Jim Brown (Darrin Dewitt Henson) , the most notable African American running back at the time, and the approval of “Pops”, Ernie chose Syracuse University.

While in college, Ernie sets records, educates his slightly antiquated coach, endured and overcame harsh prejudice, falls in love, becomes a college hero and the first African American to win The Heisman Trophy.

Immediately following the NFL draft, tragedy struck Ernie Davis and he was not able to realize his dream of being a professional football player. His life left a permanent mark, sports was eternally changed and future generations will forever be inspired by the short life of Ernie Davis.

As I think of this young man’s life, I’m reminded of Hebrews 11. Specifically, Hebrews 11:13, which says, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

This young man’s life ended too soon, but the early training by his grandfather instilled a faith and a hope that he carried with him throughout his life. The right training produced the right results; a child trained to endure all that life had to offer; the good, the bad and the tragic and left this earth a hero.

Please don’t go to see this film if your interested in seeing a football film. This film is much less about football and more about faith, hope and triumph. It’s an inspirational story about a fighter; a strong, determined, and patient young man whose life ended tragically and quickly, but his mark was indelible.

A great story!