It's football season, which means it's also the season for at least one heartwarming and inspiring movie about the sport. This year the film comes from Universal -- The Express, a biopic of Ernie "The Elmira Express" Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman trophy, back in 1963. However, the movie divides its time between Davis and his coach at Syracuse University, Ben Schwartzwalder, and shows the ways in which the two characters changed one another (for the better, natch).
The movie opens during the notorious Cotton Bowl game of 1960, when Davis (Rob Brown) was a running back on the Syracuse University team that played The University of Texas, which had not yet allowed black varsity team members. It's a rough game, but Davis is handling himself until all hell breaks loose ... and then we flash back to Davis's childhood in the 1940s and see how he learned to handle nasty racist situations even at an early age. He's stubborn and he's speedy, and eventually decides to use those assets to strive for his goal of playing professional football. His idol, Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown, advises Davis to play for his alma mater Syracuse because Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid) is such an excellent head coach. But Davis encounters difficulties in the ways Schwartzwalder handles the black team members. The coach's primary goal is to avoid "trouble," so they're warned away from the white female students, and worse yet, at certain Southern games they're not allowed to score touchdowns. The real action culminates when the film returns to the Cotton Bowl game in Dallas.