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Eli Thomas Wins the Coveted Ernie Davis Award

Posted Friday, December 20, 2013 by Mike Johnston


Elmira's Thomas wins Ernie Davis Award


9:05 PM, Dec 19, 2013   | 
Elmira's Eli Thomas, left, with Express head coach Jimmy McCauley after receiving the Ernie Davis Award on Thursday.
Elmira's Eli Thomas, left, with Express head coach Jimmy McCauley after receiving the Ernie Davis Award on Thursday. / ANDREW LEGARE / STAFF PHOTO
Ernie Davis Award winner Eli Thomas of Elmira, center, with Joel Stephens Award co-winners Ty Timmerman of Corning, left, and Connor Route of Canton. / ANDREW LEGARE / STAFF PHOTO

ELMIRA — A championship season for Eli Thomas and the Elmira Express football team received more recognition Thursday afternoon when Thomas was named the winner of the Ernie Davis Award, given annually to the top high school football player in Chemung County.

The award was presented during an Elmira Kiwanis Club luncheon at the Holiday Inn-Riverview.

Also honored were Corning senior Ty Timmerman and Canton (Pa.) senior Connor Route, who were named co-winners of the Joel Stephens Award. That annual award goes to a player from outside of Chemung County and is based on performance and character.


Thomas helped Elmira reach the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class AA semifinals after the Express captured the Section 4 title. Elmira finished with a 10-1 record.

The senior carried 137 times for 1,252 yards and 21 touchdowns. Thomas had seven additional touchdowns, with three on receptions, two on punt returns, one on a kickoff return and one on an interception. At safety, he had 77 tackles, eight pass break-ups and two interceptions.

“I’ve been saying all season, we had a great turnout in the offseason, a lot of people came and were working hard,” Thomas said. “It paid off and we really had a great season.”

Last season Thomas led Elmira in tackles at safety. A great deal of hard work in the offseason helped turn him into one of the most dynamic running backs in the state.

“The whole season we had a great team effort and Eli would be the first one to thank his teammates,” Express coach Jimmy McCauley said. “Eli had a great season, there’s no hiding it. It just goes to prove hard work pays off. Eli put in countless hours behind the scenes in the weight room, video study. It couldn’t happen to a nicer person.”

Davis was an Elmira Free Academy graduate who won the Heisman Trophy as a running back at Syracuse University in 1961. He died of leukemia in 1963 at age 23 and his legacy is as much about about the type of person he was as it is about his football career.


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