||As the first African American to receive college football's prestigious Heisman trophy, Ernie Davis (Rob Brown) is one of the most inspiring--and tragic--figures in the game (he died of leukemia at 23, before his first NFL game) His rise to athletic stardom coincides with the birth of the civil rights movement, and despite setbacks like a speech impediment, biased referees, and fear of white mob reprisals, Davis grabs the glory for a better America. Dennis Quaid plays Davis's coach and mentor, Ben Schwartzwalder, who lays on the discipline and training, first yielding to racist pressures, then supporting and spurring Davis to his peerless heights for Syracuse University's Orangemen. THE EXPRESS would need to work hard to fumble this ball, and it doesn't, making a smooth cinematic touchdown with heart, intelligence, guts, rapid-fire editing, and a minimum of cliché. The gridiron action is vividly and excitingly rendered as is a superb supporting cast, most notably Omar Benson Miller as Davis's wisecracking teammate. Plus, one can't go wrong with having seasoned sports movie go-to guy Quaid as Schwartzwalder; he's got this stuff so down, he could get an audience to stand up and cheer just by reading a grocery list. What sticks in the mind later though is the joy in watching these characters grow, as athletes and as people. And as they mature, they take all of America with them.