Floyd Little, a Denver Broncos and Syracuse football legend, passed away on Saturday at the age of 78.
Little’s lightning legs allowed him to do a little bit of everything for the Broncos way back in their American Football League days, being drafted in the first round in 1967. But before he landed in the Mile High City, Little was one of a tremendous trilogy of running backs who played at Syracuse University.
Jim Brown, Ernie Banks and Little all wore the No. 44 at Syracuse, and each of them are pillars of greatness in the football world. While at Syracuse, Little was actually friends of President-elect Joe Biden, who wrote a statement following Little’s passing yesterday:
“In the years that followed, I got to know Floyd as the man behind the number. He was full of character, decency, and integrity. He was always gracious with his time with fans — parents and grandparents who wanted to introduce their children and grandchildren to a genuine role model.
“I was one of them. My family got to know Floyd. We’d call each other after Syracuse games and to check in on one another. I remember our call when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the joy in his voice. And I remember the more recent call when he shared his cancer diagnosis, and how fearless he was in his conviction to fight it. As with everything else he did in life, Floyd lived to the very end with grit and heart, and love for his family and faith in God.
“I will miss my friend. He was a good man. The entire Biden family sends our love to DeBorah and the entire Little family.”
At Syracuse, from 1964-66, Little was a First-Team All-American all three years and finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting in ’65 and ’66.
With the Broncos, he was a remarkable running back, but he was also a skilled pass-catcher and even returned kicks. He was a swiss army knife, a speedy star.
His first three years were in the AFL, leading the league in yards per punt return (16.9) as a rookie. Then, he earned First-Team All-Pro AFL in 1969 by leading the league in yards per carry (5.0) and scored seven times even though his season was shortened. In 1971, Little led the National Football League in rushing yards (1,133) and yards from scrimmage (1,388), and in 1973 he led the league in rushing touchdowns with 12.
At the time of his retirement in 1975, the Broncos also retired his No. 44. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983, his number was retired by Syracuse — alongside Banks and Brown — in 2005, and he was finally enshrined in the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement on Saturday reading, in part, “Floyd Little was not only a Hall of Fame running back, he was a Hall of Fame person. Faith, family and football were the pillars of his life.
“I was so fortunate to know Floyd and witnessed first-hand the impact he had on others. Whenever he represented the Broncos at the annual NFL Draft, others immediately sought to greet him and his genuine excitement of being with his fellow Legends and his pride and passion for the Broncos was unmistakable.”
Little’s 6,323 rushing yards, 43 rushing touchdowns and 2,523 kick return yards are all second-most in Broncos history to this day.
And on this day, the Broncos will don No. 44 decals on the back of their helmets to honor the legend, Floyd Little.
For “The Franchise” 🧡 pic.twitter.com/v7TkON1GT5
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) January 3, 2021
The 5-10 Broncos finish their season today against the 7-8 Las Vegas Raiders, with kickoff slated for 2:25 p.m. MT at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium.