Little and Elway, Two Broncos Legends
2. Floyd Little, Running Back (9 Seasons w/ Broncos, 1967-1975) -- How valuable is a player to a franchise? How to you determine a player's worth, or their worthiness of the Hall Of Fame? Statistics come into play, that's for sure. Impact on the team, the franchise, the city....that should play into it as well. If those are contributing factors, Floyd Little should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as much for what he meant to the Broncos off the field then for what he accomplished on it.
This could be really short. All I'd really have to point out about Little, and what he meant to Denver, is that his #44 is the only number, next to #7 of course, that will never be worn by a Denver Bronco. Ever. Obviously, depending on how old you are, you know exactly what John Elway meant to the franchise. Floyd Little may have meant more. Broncos' fans were already fanatics when Elway arrived in 1983. It was Floyd Little that played a huge hand in beginning the love affair that last to this day. It was Little that saved the franchise, not from losing, but from certain re-location. You could say that Floyd Little saved professional football in Denver. Period.
Floyd Little was the first No. 1 draft pick ever signed by the Broncos and was widely regarded as the first serious threat for the Broncos at running back. Little totaled 12,103 all-purpose yards during his career, including a team-record 2,523 on kickoff returns. A Pro Bowl player in 1971, he played in the AFL All-Star games in 1968 and 1969. He combined a slashing speed with rushing strength that allowed him to win the AFC rushing titles two years running, no mean feat considering the offensive lines he had. His statistics are even more amazing when you consider that the Broncos didn't have a winning season until 1973. When Little retired, he was the 7th on the list of All-Time leading rushers in NFL history.
In 1984, Little became a Charter Member of the Broncos Ring of Fame. Nicknamed "The Franchise" before such mantras were common place, Little brought respectability to a franchise that really didn't have any. Brought winning to a team that really never experienced it. Established a connection between a team and city that last to this day, as evident by the sell outs that began when Little energized a fan-base with his electric running. Floyd Little was the "Founding Father" of Bronco Nation, and as Broncos fans we have him to thank for the euphoria towards Broncos football that exists today.
The have been many great players to don the Blue and Orange over the years, yet Little was the Broncos' All-Time Leader in combined yardage until October 22, 2006, when Rod Smith finally eclipsed him on that list. Not bad for a guy with "mediocre stats".
When judging a player's worth and deservedness for Hall entry one needs to look at more than stats. What kind of impact did the player have off the field, in the community. If Floyd Little were to be judged on those merits, he could be considered one of the best ever. Someday the voters will get it right and Little will get in. Until then, Broncos fans, keep in mind how much Little meant to the Broncos, and say a "Little" thank you to The Franchise.
My Odds -- 4/1