"What did you do that for?" Davis asked Cox.
"What the hell is it to you?" Cox snapped back.
Davis sprang on him like a cat out of a tree. "He hit him until Cox told him, 'I've had enough, I've had enough,' " says Coleman. "Just because he kicked this kid."
Children flocked to Davis. Over the years, he became a kind of Pied Piper for city kids. They followed him everywhere, clutches of them, wherever he walked across town. They watched him run for miles around Elmira in the summer heat, along the streets and stretches of park grass—his head up, shoulders straight, arms pumping.
Whenever Davis showed up at Green Pastures among the beer drinkers at the bar, Coleman would call out to the bartender, "Give the Reverend Davis a Coke," and Ernie would laugh with them. "He didn't smoke, he didn't swear, he didn't drink," Coleman says. At night, before going to sleep, Davis prayed in silence on his knees, his elbows resting on the bed. "We were all taught to do that," says Marie.
Davis was an ideal black football prospect at a time when racially skittish colleges were just beginning to integrate their teams. He was well suited to carry on at Syracuse, which Jim Brown had left three years before with these records behind him: 2,091 rushing yards in 361 carries, 5.8 yards per carry: 25 touchdowns; and 187 points scored. But Brown ran into more than tackling dummies and opposing linemen in his years at Syracuse. Shortly before he arrived, another black Syracuse football player, Avatus Stone, had scandalized the school by indulging in what was perceived at the time to be an unseemly social life. "He dated a blonde majorette," says Brown.
When Brown got to Syracuse, the caution light was on. "Don't be another Avatus Stone," he was warned. Brown toed the line, but in his way. He remained true to himself, an outspoken, strong and challenging personality, perhaps the only kind that could have survived the wary, uptight environment in which he found himself. Brown was watched as if he were an alien who had descended on the town in a pod from outer space.
"They didn't want me at the start. But they finally accepted me," Brown says now. "And we had some success. I set records. We went to the Cotton Bowl, got on national television, and I didn't mess with the white girls on campus. Then they gave me the privilege of helping them recruit Ernie Davis. That meant they had finally accepted black players and wanted black players. Here they had a chance to get a player that fit all the molds and parameters they had."
Indeed, Schwartzwalder recruited Davis tirelessly, with the help of Brown and an Elmira attorney and Syracuse alumnus. Tony DeFilippo, whose son, Ted, was a high school basketball teammate of Davis's.
Says Brown, "They got him: Ernie Davis. And Ernie made it beautiful for that new era of championship guys. Dynamite dudes, black guys, came to Syracuse after Ernie. Floyd Little and Jim Nance and others. It was fantastic. They could go there without losing their dignity. I was fighting every day at Syracuse to hold on to my dignity. I broke through, but Ernie created the new era. Ernie was Ben's man. Schwartzwalder loved him."