Pro Football Hall of Fame halfback Floyd Little, known for his career with the Denver Broncos in the 1970s and as a three-time All-American at Syracuse, died Saturday, the Hall announced. He was 78.
It was revealed last May that Little was battling cancer, and he was placed in hospice care in November.
Little was nicknamed “The Franchise” during his career with Denver. His No. 44 has been retired by both Syracuse and the Broncos. Little was the sixth pick of the 1967 AFL-NFL draft before playing nine seasons with the franchise and accumulating 6,323 yards with 43 touchdowns. A five-time Pro Bowler, Little led the AFL in combined yards in the 1967 and 1968.
After the AFL and NFL merged, Little led the combined NFL in rushing in 1971 with 1,133 yards on a league-high 284 carries. He also led the league in 1973 with 12 rushing touchdowns.
Little retired after the 1975 season without ever participating in a playoff game.
Floyd Little speaks during his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. (Photo: Ron Schwane, AP)
“Floyd Little was a true hero of the game. He was a man of great integrity, passion and courage,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement. “His contributions off the field were even greater than his amazing accomplishments he did on it. Floyd’s smile, heart and character epitomized what it meant to have a Hall of Fame life.
Little’s family released a statement that read: “The family extends their gratitude to all who have supported Floyd Little and his family during this time with prayers, calls and your heartfelt expressions of love.”
President-elect Joe Biden also released a statement.
“Floyd Little and I were students at Syracuse University together. And over the years, I got to know the man behind the number,” Biden wrote on Twitter. “He was full of character, decency, and integrity. I will miss my friend. The entire Biden family sends our love to DeBorah and the Little family.”
Little was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. In his acceptance speech, he recalled how he was once kicked out of school, but through the encouragement and support of others, he found a new determination to be a leader.
“So I want to encourage you, every student, every athlete, every person who will hear my voice, don’t listen to the naysayer. I had plenty of those. Don’t listen to those that will judge you for your rough edges. Don’t focus on your weakness so you won’t become a victim,” he said.
“Find the goodness in you that says, Yes, I can be a good student. Yes, I can be a good son and daughter. Yes, I can be a positive role model. Yes, I can, because the good in you is better than the worst in most. The choice is yours. Be the best that you can be.”
Contributing: Steve Gardner
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