|IRVING, Texas (Jan. 2, 2021) – Floyd Little, a 1983 College Football Hall of Fame inductee and three-time All-America halfback for Syracuse from 1964-1966, passed away Jan. 1 after a battle with cancer. He was 78.
“When one thinks of what defines a Hall of Famer, there is probably no better example than Floyd Little,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “He was exceptional in every possible way both on and off the field. A gifted and elusive ball carrier, he etched his name in the Orange record books, always remaining humble and giving credit to those around him, and he did the same in the pros. He cared deeply about the game, and he worked hard to give back to those who came from disadvantaged circumstances, similar to his experiences as a youngster. We lost a great one yesterday. He will be missed.”
Little’s accomplishments, along with Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Ernie Davis, led to the retirement of the famed No. 44 jersey at Syracuse, and Plaza 44, which is outside the entrance to the team’s indoor practice facility, features bronze statues of each of the legends.
Little, whose father passed away when he was six-years old, was raised by his single mother as one of six kids. He excelled at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Connecticut and then at Bordentown Military Institute before arriving at Syracuse.
Little stood 5-11 and weighed 195-pounds when he headed to central New York, and he was a 9.6 sprinter in track. In three seasons for the Orange and 30 regular-season games, he rushed for 2,704 yards and scored 46 touchdowns. He also caught 50 passes and threw for another.
A standout return man, he led the nation in all-purpose yards (1,990) and punt return average (23.5) as a junior in 1965. He still holds the Syracuse career record with six punt returns for touchdowns. The 1966 ECAC Player of the Year, Little finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting twice. He averaged 5.4 yards as a rusher, 20 yards on punt returns, and 29 yards on kickoff returns.
His longest punt returns included 90 yards against UCLA and 71 yards against Penn State in 1964; 95 yards against Pittsburgh and 91 against Penn State in 1965. His best rushing games included 216 yards in the 1967 Gator Bowl against Tennessee; 196 against West Virginia in 1965; and 193 against Florida State in 1966. He scored five touchdowns against Kansas in 1964. Little played in the same Orange backfield as 1989 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Larry Csonka for two seasons.
The sixth-overall pick in the 1967 NFL Draft, Little played with the Denver Broncos from 1967-75, leading the pros in rushing in 1971 and touchdowns in 1973. He was a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro running back, amassing more than 12,000 all-purpose yards. In 1970, he was in a group of athletes who visited American troops in Vietnam. Like Syracuse, Denver retired No. 44 in his honor.
He graduated from Syracuse University, majoring in history and religion. While playing professionally, he added a master’s in judicial administration. He worked three years as an NBC broadcaster, then joined Ford Motor Co. and set up dealerships in Colorado and California. Little made his home in Denver for many years and was involved in many charitable groups. In 2011, Little returned to his alma mater to serve as special assistant to the director of athletics, a position he held until 2016. In 2016, Little was presented with an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Syracuse University.
Little is a charter member of the Broncos Ring of Fame in 1984. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, and his induction into the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame in 2019 marked the 11th hall of fame to recognize him. His many citations included the 1973 Brian Piccolo Award, 1974 Whizzer White Award, 1979 Walter Camp Foundation Man of the Year, 1992 NCAA Silver Anniversary Award.
Floyd Little became a public speaker and often used this quote: “God gave you two ends. One to sit on, one to think with. Heads you win, tails you lose.” Another: “I chose not to be a common man, because it is my right to be uncommon, if I can.” He said of Syracuse University: “I liked it because they made you be a student first, an athlete second.”
Born July, 4 1942 in New Haven, Little is survived by his wife DeBorah, son Marc, daughters Christy and Kyra, and several grandchildren.