ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Ernie Davis and Tommy Hilfiger, two local Elmira icons leaving their mark in history. In an 18 News exclusive, we spoke with Hilfiger on the impact Ernie Davis had on his road to success.
Ernie Davis, a man who defied all odds, running into the history books as the first African American Heisman Trophy winner. A man who gave so many hope, and many more, a dream.
Tommy Hilfiger said, “As a young boy I never thought of how I would succeed in life but I looked at people like Ernie Davis”.
Helping pave the way to a multi-billion dollar global brand known by one word: Tommy.
“If Ernie Davis can become one of the most successful and world-renowned football players from a small town like Elmira, maybe I can also become a world-renowned brand”, said Hilfiger.
Hilfiger was born in Elmira in 1951 and says it was a childhood memory that helped push him towards a path to success.
“Somebody recently sent me a photograph of Jim Brown, who was undoubtedly one of the most famous football players to come out of Syracuse University. He came to Elmira to influence Ernie into going to Syracuse and during the Heisman trophy celebration which was held at Notre Dame high school in 1963, Jim Brown came with a lot of Cleveland Brown players”, says Hilfiger.
That was a moment Hilfiger says he would never forget.
“Everyone in Elmira talked about Ernie, and I had the chance to meet him. I remember shaking his hand thinking, I touched this person, he looked me in the eyes… he’s a human being just like I am. If Ernie could do it I could do it in my own way”, said Hilfiger.
Now Tommy is using his success to give back to the city that gave so much to him.
“When i stumbled across the football signed by Davis and the check given to Ernie from the Cleveland Browns, I decided I should not keep it to myself but share it with the community”, says Hilfiger.
Now those pieces of history are here in the City of Elmira at the Economic Opportunities Program, where future generations can see and be inspired by those like Davis and Hilfiger.