The Ernie Davis Community Center celebrated what would have been Ernie Davis’ 78th birthday.

The Community Center, named after the football star, celebrates Davis’ birthday each year.

The event had posters of Davis, memorabilia, and also sold buffalo wings for $4.44, because Davis played the number 44. 

Davis grew up in Elmira and was the first African American to win the Heisman trophy. He played football at Syracuse University and was the first pick in the 1962 draft.

Davis was diagnosed with Leukemia and tried to play up until the last minute, but died at 23 before he was able to play professionally.

John Ward, the Youth Program Assistant at Ernie Davis Community Center, says Davis’ legacy is much more than his football stardom.

“Yes, Ernie was this famous football player, but more than that, Ernie was a man of courage, a man of dignity,” Ward said.

Ward says these are values to teach the youth in Elmira.

“They are not growing up with a lot of those values, and we want to try to instill that in the youth that come to our center,” Ward said.

The Community Center hopes Davis’ story will inspire younger generations.

“We want them to know that they themselves can accomplish anything they work really hard for, just like Ernie,” Ward said.