IQFB Profile: Floyd Little
Floyd Little is best known as the first big star player the Denver Broncos ever had. He came to the team in 1967, after the Broncos had been members of the American Football League (AFL) for seven seasons. Little went on to play multiple positions and have a very productive career in Denver. He played his whole career in the Mile High City and by the time he retired was a definite fan favorite.
Floyd Little went to Syracuse University and though he had a productive college career, it was extremely difficult to play running back at the same school that had been the beneficiary of talented running backs before him like Jim Brown and Ernie Davis. His accomplishments at the college football level though would lead him to eventually be voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
Little was drafted with the 6th overall pick in the first round of the 1967 NFL-AFL draft. This was the first year that the two leagues drafted players together as they had already agreed to merge in 1970. Before coming to Denver, the Broncos were rumored to be considering relocating to a different city because of the poor support the area fans were giving them. After Little came to the team, attendance and excitement about the football team greatly increased. The drafting of Floyd Little is thought of by many to be the action that saved pro football in the city of Denver. Because of this and his overall value to the team, he was given the nickname “The Franchise”.
In terms of rushing yards, Little would start off a little slow in Denver, accumulating just 381 yards and one touchdown during his rookie season. His numbers would improve each season though as he gained 584 yards in year two, 729 in year three, 901 in year four, and become the first Broncos player ever to rush for more than 1,000 yards in 1971 when he gained 1,133 yards. In that magical 1971 season, Little would lead the entire NFL in rushing attempts, rushing yards, rushing yards per game, and total yards from scrimmage. He would have two more very productive years with the Broncos before his numbers diminished during his last two seasons with the team.
During his entire career with the Broncos, but especially during his first four seasons in the league, Little would also be used as a kick returner and punt returner, leading the league in yards per punt return during his rookie season. He would also lead the league in all purpose yards during both his first and second seasons in pro football. Little would be named to the Pro Bowl on five different occasions (1968-71, 1973) and would be voted First Team All-Pro in 1969. During what is considered as his prime years, 1969 through 1973, Little was voted a first or second team member of a number of All-NFL and All-Conference teams including those associated with the Associated Press, Pro Football Writers, Hall of Fame, New York Daily News, Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly, and UPI.
Little retired as the 7th leading rusher in NFL history, and with all six of the running backs who were ahead of him at the time in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, many believed Little would be there too. He would not get voted in during his initial years of eligibility, but in the summer of 2009 would be nominated by the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Seniors Committee.
After his retirement, Floyd Little would be among the first former Denver Broncos players to be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor (along with Goose Gonsoulin, Lionel Taylor, and Rich Jackson). This ceremony at halftime during a 1984 regular season game saw an incredible outpouring of affection for a man that meant so much to the city of Denver and the Broncos football team. After retirement, Little spent time owning and running multiple car dealerships and even dabbled in coaching football with the University of California – Santa Barbara.
Floyd Little played his entire career with the Denver Broncos and his final NFL statistics show him rushing 1,641 times for 6,32 yards, and 43 touchdowns. He also caught 215 passes for 2,418 yards, and 9 touchdowns.