Director Gary Fleder and writer Charles Leavitt (from Robert Gallagher’s book) recount the tragically short life of Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, who died of leukemia at 23 before he could fulfill his professional potential. Rob Brown’s performance as Davis would be a breakthrough if he hadn’t had one already—in Finding Forrester (2000). Then, the 16-year-old newcomer held his own with Sean Connery; here, he carries the film in partnership with Dennis Quaid as Syracuse University’s head coach Ben Schwartzwalder. The film is predictable but inspiring, without going overboard into Brian’s Song tear-jerking. Fleder (expertly assisted by cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau and editors Padraic McKinley and William Steinkamp) ices the cake with some first-rate game footage.