Floyd Little

American football player (1942–2021)

American football player
Floyd Little
refer to caption
Little in August 2012
No. 44
Personal information
Born:(1942-07-04)July 4, 1942
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.
Died:January 1, 2021(2021-01-01) (aged 78)
Henderson, Nevada, U.S.
Height:5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Weight:196 lb (89 kg)
Career information
High school:Hillhouse (New Haven)
College:Syracuse (1964–1966)
NFL draft:1967 / Round: 1 / Pick: 6
Career history
  • Denver Broncos (1967–1975)
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards:6,323
Rushing average:3.9
Rushing touchdowns:43
Receiving yards:2,418
Receiving touchdowns:9
Player stats at PFR
Pro Football Hall of Fame
College Football Hall of Fame

Floyd Douglas Little (July 4, 1942 – January 1, 2021)[1] was an American professional football player who was a halfback for the Denver Broncos, initially in the American Football League (AFL) and later the National Football League (NFL).[2] He played college football for the Syracuse Orangemen, twice earning All-American honors. Little was the sixth overall selection of the 1967 NFL/AFL draft, the first common draft. He was the first first-round draft pick to sign with the AFL's Broncos, where he was known as "the Franchise". Little was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.[3]

Early life

Little was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on July 4, 1942.[3] He attended the Hillhouse High School in New Haven[4] and the Bordentown Military Institute in Bordentown, New Jersey.[5][6]

College career

Little was recruited by Gen. Douglas MacArthur to play football at the United States Military Academy and had told him that he'd ascend to the rank of general if he enrolled at West Point. He was also recruited by the University of Notre Dame.[6] Little ultimately chose to attend Syracuse University at the persuasion of the first African-American Heisman Trophy winner, Ernie Davis.[7] Little is the only three-time All-American running back to have played for the Orange.[8]

Little played for Syracuse for three seasons. In 1964 he made 157 carries for 874 yards and nine touchdowns and 17 catches for 257 yards and 1 touchdown. In 1965 he made 193 carries for 1,065 yards and 14 touchdowns and 21 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown. In 1966 he made 162 carries for 811 yards and 12 touchdowns and 13 catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns.[9] Little finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting in both 1965 and 1966.[10][11]

Professional career

In 1975, Little retired as the NFL's seventh all-time leading rusher with 6,323 yards rushing and 54 total touchdowns (rushing, receiving and returns). He also threw a touchdown pass to receiver Jerry Simmons in a 1972 upset over the Oakland Raiders. During his rookie year, Little led the NFL in punt returns with a 16.9-yard average. He led the NFL in combined yards in 1967 and 1968. Little was Denver Broncos' team captain in all of his nine seasons with the team, including his rookie campaign.[8]

Little was a charter member of the Broncos' Ring of Fame in 1984, which also included; Rich Jackson, Lionel Taylor, and Goose Gonsoulin. He was the first Bronco to win a rushing title, leading the AFC in rushing in 1970 with 901 yards and the following year he became the first Bronco to eclipse 1,000 yards, gaining 1,133 to lead the NFL. Little was the first player to lead his conference in rushing for a last-place team[8][12] and the 13th player ever in professional football to rush for at least 1,000 yards in one season.[13] He was an American Football League All-Star in 1968. In a week 12 win over Buffalo, he caught four passes out of the backfield for 165 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown, setting a franchise record of 41.25 yards per reception, which still stands.[14] He was named first-team "All-AFL" in 1969, and made the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl in 1970, 1971, and 1973. At 5′10″ and 195 pounds, Little was the smallest back to lead the league in rushing since World War II. He led the league in combined yards in 1967 and 1968 and was the only player to return punts for touchdowns in both seasons. During a six-year period (1968–1973), Little rushed for more yards and more yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving) than any running back in the NFL.[15]

Little acquired his nickname "the Franchise" because his decision to sign with the AFL's Broncos was credited with generating sufficient fan interest to keep the team from relocating in the 1960s, and with helping to convince Denver voters to approve funding for the purchase and expansion of Mile High Stadium.[16]

In 2005, Little was named to the Professional Football Researchers Association Hall of Very Good in the association's third HOVG class.[17]

In 2009, Little was a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[18] He was voted in on February 6, 2010, his induction took place in Canton, Ohio, on August 7, 2010.[18] Little is one of five players in the Super Bowl era to make the Hall of Fame without ever playing a postseason game.[19]

From July 2011 to June 2016, Little served as the Special Assistant to the Athletic Director at Syracuse University.[7][20][21]

Awards and honors

Little during the ceremony of induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August 2010

Little's jersey number, 44, was retired by the Broncos in 1975 in his honor and by the Syracuse football program on November 12, 2005, to honor Little, Ernie Davis, and Jim Brown, and the eight other players who wore the number. Little was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.[22] He was inducted into the Denver Broncos' Ring of Fame on October 1, 1984.[23]

On August 7, 2010, Little was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame alongside Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, John Randle, and Dick LeBeau.[24] On September 15, 2011, the New Haven Athletic Center, billed as the largest scholastic athletics facility in New England, was renamed the Floyd Little Athletic Center.[4] On May 15, 2016, Little received his honorary doctorate from Syracuse University in Humane Letters.[25][20] On May 17, 2019, Little was awarded the University of Denver's Distinguished Alumni Award and on May 18, 2019, Little was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws as speaker at DU's Sturm College of Law's commencement ceremonies.[26] Syracuse's football practice facility has a bronze statue of Little alongside Jim Brown and Ernie Davis.[27][28]

Personal life

Little lived with his wife DeBorah in Las Vegas.[29] Little finished 40th in his class of 140 at the University of Denver law school, from which he received his masters in legal administration degree in 1975. Little owned automobile dealerships in Denver, the Seattle area and Santa Barbara.[7][30] In May 2020, his former Syracuse teammate Pat Killorin announced that Little had been fighting cancer.[28]

Little died on January 1, 2021, at the age of 78.[31]

Career statistics

Year Team GP Rushing Receiving
Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD
1967 DEN 13 130 381 2.9 1 7 11 1.6 0
1968 DEN 11 158 584 3.7 3 19 331 17.4 1
1969 DEN 9 146 729 5.0 6 19 218 11.5 1
1970 DEN 14 209 901 4.3 3 17 161 9.5 0
1971 DEN 13 284 1,133 4.0 6 26 255 9.8 0
1972 DEN 14 216 859 4.0 9 28 367 13.1 4
1973 DEN 14 256 979 3.8 12 41 423 10.3 1
1974 DEN 14 117 312 2.7 1 29 344 11.9 0
1975 DEN 14 125 445 3.6 2 29 308 10.6 2
Career[32] 116 1,641 6,323 3.9 43 215 2,418 11.2 9


Floyd Little is portrayed by actor Chadwick Boseman in the 2008 Universal Pictures film The Express: The Ernie Davis Story, a biographical film about Syracuse University Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis.[33]

See also


  1. ^ "July 4: Happy birthday, Floyd Little". denverbroncos.com. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  2. ^ Legwold, Jeff (September 24, 2010). "Floyd Little receiving Hall of Fame ring at Sunday's Broncos game". Denver Post. Retrieved February 6, 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Former Syracuse football great Floyd Little dies at 78". NCAA. January 3, 2021. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Ehalt, Bob (September 10, 2011). "Renaming of athletic center means a lot to Floyd Little". New Haven Register. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  5. ^ Fisher, Rich (September 26, 2018). "Bordentown Military Institute alumni to gather this month". Community News. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Bowe, Barry (2018). "High Noon with Floyd Little". Blame My Father. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Cimini, Rich (May 26, 2011). "Floyd Little chooses the Cuse all over again". ESPN.com. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c Sports Illustrated, July 26, 2010, The Unexpected Hero by Gary Smith, p. 60, Published by Time Inc.
  9. ^ "Sports Reference Floyd Little". Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  10. ^ "1965 Heisman Trophy Voting". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  11. ^ "1966 Heisman Trophy Voting". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  12. ^ Pinckney, Paul (January 9, 1971). "Syracuse's Little: A Pro All the Way". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, New York. p. 9. Retrieved December 28, 2020 – via Newspapers.com Open access icon.
  13. ^ Sports Illustrated, July 26, 2010, The Unexpected Hero by Gary Smith, p. 63, Published by Time Inc.
  14. ^ As of 2017[update]; See box score
  15. ^ Little, Floyd; Mackie, Tom (2006). Floyd Little's tales from the Broncos sideline. Sports Pub. ISBN 978-1-59670-050-5. OCLC 70258805. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  16. ^ "Hall of Fame Broncos RB Floyd Little dies at 78". January 2, 2021.
  17. ^ "Hall of Very Good Class of 2005". Retrieved November 29, 2021.
  18. ^ a b Acee, Kevin (February 6, 2010). "Coryell denied entry to Hall of Fame". baltimoresun.com. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  19. ^ Patsko, Scott (May 19, 2019). "How many Pro Football Hall of Famers are like Joe Thomas and never played a playoff game?". cleveland.com. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  20. ^ a b "Q&A with Floyd Little on role at Syracuse, new doctorate". Denver Broncos. March 30, 2016. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  21. ^ Nett, Dennis (May 12, 2016). "Syracuse football legend Floyd Little will leave in June". syracuse.com. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  22. ^ Daniels, Tim (January 2, 2021). "Floyd Little, Hall of Fame Broncos RB, Dies at Age 78". Bleacher Report. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  23. ^ "Biography: Floyd Little, RB". October 1, 1984. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  24. ^ "Jerry Rice enters Pro Football Hall of Fame". The Mercury News. August 7, 2010. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  25. ^ Poliquin, Bud (May 13, 2016). "Floyd Little on his honorary doctorate: 'It's incredible'". syracuse.com. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  26. ^ "DU will honor a Broncos legend this weekend". KUSA.com. May 13, 2019. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  27. ^ Swinton, Elizabeth. "Hall of Famer Floyd Little Diagnosed with Cancer". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  28. ^ a b Mink, Nate (May 29, 2020). "Floyd Little has cancer: 'It will be the toughest fight of his life'". syracuse. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  29. ^ Mink, Nate (March 27, 2021). "At Floyd Little's memorial service, promises made to 'preserve the legacy'". The Post-Standard. Retrieved March 31, 2021.
  30. ^ Sports Illustrated, July 26, 2010, The Unexpected Hero by Gary Smith, p. 57, Published by Time Inc.
  31. ^ O'Halloran, Ryan (January 2, 2021). "Floyd Little, Broncos Hall of Fame running back, dies at age 78". denverpost.com. MediaNews Group, Inc. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  32. ^ "Floyd Little Stats". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
  33. ^ "Remembering Chadwick Boseman as Floyd Little in 'The Express'". WRBL. September 3, 2020. Retrieved September 8, 2020.

Further reading

  • Little, Floyd; Mackie, Tom (2006). Floyd Little's Tales from the Broncos Sideline. Champaign, Illinois: Sports Pub. ISBN 978-1-59670-050-5.

External links

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