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Denver Broncos Greats... By The Numbers: #44 - "The Franchise"

It is my privilege to endorse this article and put it on the Front Page. I am not quite old enough to have actually watched this man play. So I deferred the honor to someone who has. This was written by Don Fleming, aka Firstfan. --KK

Three players have worn number 44 for the Broncos. The first was Bruce Starling who was a halfback in 1963. Starling was drafted in the 19th round (152nd overall) in the 1963 AFL Draft and I could not find any recordable stats. The next to wear #44 was Miller Farr who played safety for us in 1965. He played seven games for us with two interceptions when we shipped him off to San Diego. Farr went on to have a 10 year career in the AFL/NFL with several all-league and all-pro mentions.

But the greatest Bronco to ever wear the number 44 is most certainly Floyd Little. I have written many times on the contribution of Floyd Little to the Denver Broncos. I will leave it to Zappa and Kaptain and the others who are more technically savvy than I to provide the links to all of Floyd's accomplishments.

Instead, in this post I will discuss some of the intangibles that don't show up in the stat sheets. First is his versatility. He was elusive but also ran with power. He could make the best tackler miss completely and when he was finally corralled by two or more defenders the pile would always move another yard or two and then fall toward the other team's end zone. He could catch the ball and run perhaps better than any who played the game. Some say his ability to run the screen changed the game of pro football. And he played on special teams until the day he retired. Stan Jones, himself a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and former Broncos assistant coach, had this to say about Floyd.

"We sure kept Floyd busy. He was on the field all the time. He played every down even special teams. Along with returning punts and kicks, he was even on punt coverage. Can you imagine running backs today being asked to do all that? I don’t think there are players in the NFL talented enough to do all that Floyd did."

Another aspect of Floyd's game that never showed up in the stat sheets was his blocking. Floyd was a totally selfless player whose only concern was for the team. Stan Jones continued...

"Most people don’t know this about Floyd, but on top of being a great all around player, he was such a great blocker that on passing downs we had him switch positions with the fullback so he could block the quarterback’s blindside. Usually during a pass play, it’s the big back – the fullback that blocks the blindside. But Floyd was always the better blocker, so we had him switch. I don’t recall ever a half-back being the better blocker, but that was Floyd. We made him switch to take on the tougher assignment. That’s how complete of a player he was."

Floyd Little was also a leader. Stan also had this to say...

"Not only was he an amazing player, Floyd was a great leader. We named him captain as a rookie. That’s how impressive his leadership was, and he remained captain every year. He kept this team together."

"Not only was he an amazing player, Floyd was a great leader. We named him captain as a rookie. That’s how impressive his leadership was, and he remained captain every year. He kept this team together."

To really understand the contribution of Floyd Little one has to understand the psyche of the City of Denver and the entire front range in the 60's. Many people felt that the rest of the country looked at us as hicks. Denver was characterized as a dusty cow town and all the residents were unrefined cowboys. Our football team was laughed at. To this day I still wince at the name "Denver Donkeys". Things changed in 1967 when Floyd Little signed with the Broncos. He gave us a threat we had never had and a legitimacy we had lacked. He gave validation and credibility to an entire region of the country. People were a little more proud to be from Colorado. Arrogant linemen didn't threaten to walk back to Detroit. Talk around the water cooler all through the region turned to the Broncos. All of the Orange Madness and Bronco Fever came slightly later but it was born with the presence of Floyd Little.

John wrote about Floyd last August right before the Hall of Fame ceremony here. It is worth another glance.

I invite all of the old timers on the MHR to jump in with your stories and memories of Floyd. You guys can tell it better than I.

I want to thank the staff of the MHR for allowing me to present the greatest Bronco to ever wear the number 44, Floyd Little. (No vote required).