Football stolen from Ernie Davis’ grave site

Graham Watson
March 19, 2012

The football encased at Ernie Davis grave site has been stolen.

The ball was placed on the headstone at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, N.Y., last summer in a plastic case and since that time it has been stolen several times, but this was the first time the ball had actually been stolen from inside its case.

Davis was an All-American at Syracuse and became the first African-American player to win the Heisman in 1961.

Tom Henegar, superintendent of the cemetery, told the Press & Sun Bulletin the ball went missing Thursday.

Sometimes it gets blown off by the wind, he said, and is put back in its rightful place. Other times it's been found along the roads inside the 80-acre burying ground. But the fact the ball was taken out of the display case this time indicates to Henegar the culprits were likely juveniles.

If the thief was a collector, Henegar reasons, it's likely the ball and display case would both have been taken.

Officials believe the ball was stolen by kids playing a prank.

The football was not autographed by Davis and the significance of it was unknown. In fact, no one even knows who put it there, but it is treated as though it's an official part of the gravesite even though it can't be attached to the headstone.

"It's a shame that this happened," Henegar told the paper. "Some people just have no respect. If things aren't nailed down, they will probably be taken, but I hope the football will be returned."

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