"Horse serum," the doctor said.
"Horse serum?" blurted Modell.
"Serum from horses. An extract."
That's all Modell had to hear: "Vic, let's get out of here! I can't take this...."
Davis's leukemia remained in remission throughout the fall of 1962. In mid-December, in a snowstorm, Davis accompanied Schwartzwalder to the New Haven, Conn., home of Floyd Little, who had just finished his final, record-breaking season as a running back at Bordentown Military Institute in New Jersey. Little was wavering between Army and Notre Dame, until that night. "Boy, did Ernie make an impression on everybody in that house, my mom and sisters," he says. "I mean, 6'2", 215! Wearing a camel-hair coat and a stingy-brimmed hat. He had this big smile on his face, and he shook my hand and said, 'I understand we play the same position.' "
Schwartzwalder and Davis took Little to dinner that night, and after Little had finished his lobster, Davis waved him into the bathroom for a private talk. For nearly an hour, face-to-face, Davis sold Syracuse to Little. "Let me explain one thing to you," Ernie said. "You go to Syracuse, you'll get a chance to carry the football. The coach hates to throw." Davis went through it all that night—the life Syracuse offered for blacks, the tutoring services, the dorms, the campus, the tradition of number 44. " Jim Brown recruited me," Davis told him. "Now I've got to recruit the guy who's going to replace me. It's traditional."
Little went home leaning toward the Orange. Davis called him once in January and asked him what he was going to do. "You know I'm going to Syracuse," Little said. "My mom wants me to grow up just like you." Weisberger had announced in October that Davis had a "form of leukemia," but Little had read nothing about it, and did not know how ill Davis was.
The disease recurred in March, and Davis resumed regular visits to the hospital. Each time, he would call Modell and say. "I'm sorry, but I have to go into the hospital again." Or, "I know this is costing you a lot of money, but they want me in for another treatment."
Jim Brown could see the problems that Davis was having at the end, trying to stick the cotton up his nose, fumbling with it, tipping back his head. "I remember him touching the cotton up his nose, quickly, so no one would notice it," Brown says, "taking care of the nosebleed while not drawing attention to it. When he had to go to the hospital, which he felt was going to be the last time, I remember him touching the cotton and saying, "Hey, check you later.' I knew what he was doing. That he was really saying goodbye. And he went on in to die. To perform like an athlete and then face death without whimpering, to have great consideration of others and to know you're going to die and then to bow out with such grace—I've never seen anyone else do that."
Over the years, Brown had grown to respect Davis enormously, not just for his talent or his grace in parting but for what he represented, something that reminded him of Joe Louis.