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Malcolm Emmons/US Presswire

3. Ernie Davis

Running back | Syracuse

Ernie Davis followed the great Jim Brown as an outstanding running back at Syracuse. Unlike Brown, Davis won the Heisman, becoming, in 1961, the first black player so honored.

Davis followed Brown to the Cleveland Browns, too. Paul Brown traded for Davis after Washington (which still refused to play blacks) made him the first pick of the 1962 NFL draft.

Davis complained of feeling poorly during practice for the College All-Star Game that summer. Doctors diagnosed him with leukemia. He died months later, at age 23, without ever having played in the NFL.

-- Ivan Maisel