Based on a true story, The Express follows the extraordinary life of college football hero Ernie Davis (Rob Brown), the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. His fight for equality and respect forever changed the face of American sports, and his story continues to inspire new generations.
Raised in poverty in Pennsylvania coal-mining country, Davis hurdled social and economic obstacles to become one of the greatest running backs in college football history. Under the guidance of legendary Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid), he became a hero who superseded Jim Brown’s achievements and set records that stand to this day.
Decorated veteran Schwartzwalder was a Southerner with a single vision of a national championship and hardened ideas about how the world worked. But though he and Davis clashed mightily, he taught the player everything he knew about football, just as Davis helped him learn the true meaning of victory.
As the growing civil rights movement divided the country in the ’60s, Davis became a symbol for achievement that transcended race. Refusing to flinch from others’ prejudices, he achieved all his goals-until he faced a challenge that would make most men crumble. He joined the ranks of black pioneers by teaching a generation tolerance, inspiring a movement that smashed barriers on and off the field.
This could have been an inspirational story for families. In fact, I learned this film originally had a PG-13 rating but was changed to PG so I was hopeful it would go easy on the language so families could see it together. Unfortunately, that is exactly the area it crossed the line of acceptability for us as there were several utterances of biblical profanity.
The story of Ernie Davis (Rob Brown) and what he endured should always be remembered. He dealt with racism in the late fifties and early sixties. He was the first African American to win the revered Heisman Trophy. He excelled in playing for Syracuse. He had a bright future ahead in the NFL if he had not been struck with a disease which is featured near the film’s end. The themes of overcoming obstacles, of loyalty and friendship, and of being willing to change are all great themes. It is unfortunate the strong language wasn’t edited out. We are unable to award our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal to this film.