Former Denver Broncos running back Floyd Little has died at the age of 78.
Little had been battling cancer and he passed on New Year's Day. He recently went into hospice care.
Nicknamed "The Franchise," Little was the Broncos first-round pick (6th overall) in the 1967 NFL/AFL Draft. He spent his entire nine-year career with the Broncos, piling up 6,323 yards rushing, the seventh-highest total in NFL history when he retired in 1975.
A three-time All-America at Syracuse University, Little was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
KOA NewsRadio extends its sincere condolences to the Little family and the Denver Broncos.
Little's remarks at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 2010.
BRONCOS MOURN THE PASSING OF PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME RB FLOYD LITTLE
ENGLEWOOD, Colo.—Former Denver Broncos running back Floyd Little, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010, died on Friday after a battle with cancer. He was 78.
STATEMENT FROM BRONCOS PRESIDENT & CEO JOE ELLIS:
“Everyone with the Denver Broncos family is heartbroken with the passing of Floyd Little. Without question, Floyd was one of the greatest Broncos of all-time and an unforgettable part of our history. He rightfully earned the nickname “The Franchise” for his profound impact on this organization, helping to put the Broncos on the pro football map in the early days. As the first Pro Football Hall of Famer to star for the Broncos, Floyd brought credibility to this team while becoming one of the most dominant players of his era. Seeing him finally receive that Gold Jacket was the culmination of a tremendous lifetime in football. Even after his retirement, Floyd was a wonderful ambassador for the game and the Denver Broncos, carrying himself with warmth, kindness and class—always with humility and a smile. In recent months, he faced his cancer diagnosis with the same grit and determination that defined his incredible playing career. On behalf of the Broncos, we extend our deepest condolences to Floyd’s wife, DeBorah, the entire Little family, his many fans and all of his loved ones.”
Known as “The Franchise,” Little became the Broncos’ first bona fide star while captaining all nine of his professional seasons with the team from 1967-75. Denver’s first No. 1 draft choice to sign with the club (1967), he played in two AFL All-Star Games (1968, ‘69) and three AFC-NFC Pro Bowls (1970-71, ‘73).
A member of the Broncos’ inaugural Ring of Fame Class of 1984, Little (No. 44) is joined by Frank Tripucka and John Elway as the only three Broncos whose jersey numbers are retired. He was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, becoming just the third Bronco at the time to receive the sport’s most distinguished honor.
Little totaled the most all-purpose yards (12,157) in all of professional football during his nine-year career. In addition to leading all players with 3,416 special-teams return yards from 1967-75, he trailed only O.J. Simpson with his 8,741 scrimmage yards and 6,323 rushing yards.
At the time of his retirement following the 1975 season, Little ranked seventh on the NFL’s all-time rushing list (6,323 yards) and eighth on the league’s all-purpose yards list (12,157). Both of those figures currently rank second in Broncos history, trailing Terrell Davis(7,606 rushing yards) and Rod Smith(12,488 all-purpose yards), respectively. Additionally, Little remains one of just three players in pro football history to accumulate 6,000 rushing yards and 3,000 return yards.
Selected with the sixth overall pick in the 1967 NFL/AFL Draft from Syracuse University, Little made an immediate impact as a rookie. He finished his initial season with the third-most all-purpose yards (1,604) in pro football, trailing only future Hall of Famers Gale Sayers and Leroy Kelly. In addition to ranking second among all players with 1,212 special-teams return yards (942 KR, 270 PR) in 1967, he paced the Broncos with 381 rushing yards—the first of his franchise-record seven consecutive seasons leading the team in rushing.
Little’s rushing totals increased in each of his first five seasons. He led the AFC with 901 yards in 1970 before capturing the NFL rushing title in 1971 with a career-high 1,133 yards. In addition to becoming the franchise’s first 1,000-yard rusher, he was just the 13th player in pro football at that time to accumulate 1,000 yards rushing in a single season.
In 1973, Little tied for the NFL lead with a career-best 12 rushing touchdowns and helped the Broncos to their first winning season in franchise history (7-5-2).
A three-time All-American at Syracuse, Little followed in the footsteps of Jim Brown and Ernie Davis as a legendary tailback for the Orangemen. The school’s all-time leader in rushing yards (2,750) and total touchdowns (46) when he graduated, Little was a first-team All-American for three consecutive seasons (1964-66) and finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting following his final two years.
Little was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983, and his No. 44 was retired by the Orangemen in 2005 along with Brown and Davis, who also previously wore the number.
Born on July 4, 1942, in New Haven, Conn., Little attended Hillhouse High School in New Haven, which re-named its fieldhouse the Floyd Little Athletic Center in 2011. He later attended Bordentown (N.J.) Military Institute before enrolling at Syracuse.
After his retirement from professional football in 1975, Little graduated from the University of Denver Law School with a master’s in legal administration. He went on to complete an executive management training program with Ford Motor Co., and worked as an auto dealer for nearly 35 years.
Little returned to his alma mater as special assistant to the athletics director in 2011 until his retirement in 2016. That year, Syracuse awarded him an honorary doctorate in humane letters.
Little earned numerous awards both for his success on and off the field. In 2012, he received the Walter Camp Football Foundation Distinguished American Award, and in 2014, he was the recipient of the Doak Walker Legends Award.
His extensive work with groups such as the United Negro College Fund and the March of Dimes earned him the Brian Piccolo Award for Humanitarian Service from the YMCA as well as the Byron White Humanitarian Award from the NFL Players Association.
A member of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Class of 1977, Little also is a member of the Gator Bowl Hall of Fame, the Multi-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame and the African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame. In 1992, he was honored with the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award for his collegiate and professional accomplishments as well as his civic and charitable activities.
Little is survived by his wife, DeBorah, his daughters, Christy Jones and Kyra DaCosta, his son, Marc. T. Little, and five grandchildren: AJ, Skye, Blaze, Hayes and Yakob.
STATEMENT BY NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL ON THE PASSING OF LEGEND FLOYD LITTLE
“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.
“Football, the Broncos and the NFL were a large part of his life, but nothing could surpass his love and affection for his wife DeBorah and his children, Marc, Christy and Kyra. To them and the entire Little family we extend our deepest sympathy.
“He worked to inspire many to be the best they could be, saying at his 2010 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: ‘Leave a legacy that you and your family can be proud.’
“You left us all proud to have known you. Thank you, Floyd.”
STATEMENT BY PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME PRESIDENT AND CEO DAVID BAKER
Statement from Pro Football Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker:
"Floyd Little was a true hero of the game. He was a man of great integrity, passion and courage. 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.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Floyd’s wife, DeBorah, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations. The Hall of Fame flag will be flown at half-staff in Floyd’s memory.”