Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Floyd Little died on Friday night at the age of 78.
Little, who starred at Syracuse then played nine seasons with the Denver Broncos, reportedly had been battling a rare form of cell cancer.
“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,” Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker said in a statement.
“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.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also commented on Little’s character.
“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,” Goodell said in statement. “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.”
His former college teammate, Patrick Killorin, publicly revealed in May that Little had been diagnosed with cancer. He organized a GoFundMe drive for Little and had kept fans updated about the former running back’s condition.
Little was a three-time All-American at Syracuse and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 2010. He also is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
“Floyd Little is a Syracuse treasure,” Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack said. “The legacy that he leaves here is so much more than just one who wore No. 44, was an All-American, was in the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Floyd’s legacy is that he was a wonderful, wonderful person. He treated everyone with genuine care and respect and was always there for people. His impact as a person is those that he impacted. He was always willing to share his time, his wisdom, his support. … It is a legacy that will last forever and will never be replaced. He is someone who leaves a legacy of pure class in every single respect. There was only one Floyd Little and there will never be another one like him.”
Little played for the Broncos from 1967-75 and was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and first-team All-Pro in 1969. In 1971, when the NFL played 14-game seasons, he led the league with 284 rushes and 1,133 yards, as well as 1,388 yards from scrimmage.
In 117 career games, he gained 8,741 yards from scrimmage and scored 52 touchdowns.
“Everyone with the Denver Broncos family is heartbroken with the passing of Floyd Little,” Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis said in a statement. “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.”
In three seasons at Syracuse (1964-66), he ran for 2,750 yards and 35 touchdowns. He also had 591 receiving yards and four more TDs.
The Broncos selected him No. 6 overall in the 1967 draft.