Good morning, Broncos Country!
One day into the New Year, and the heart of the Denver Broncos is aching.
Floyd Little, also known as “The Franchise,” passed away on Friday at his home in Henderson, Nevada, at the age of 78. Little succumbed to a rare form of cell cancer.
I am too young to have had the pleasure of watching Little play for the Broncos, but to hear from those who did, you realize how special he was and what he meant to this franchise.
When Little was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, I chatted with Broncos radio play-by-play guy Dave Logan for a column that ran in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. I would link to it, but it’s now behind a paywall.
What Logan told me in then rings even more true to this day, especially with the news of Little’s passing.
“Having grown up here in Denver, my first memories of going to a Broncos game back in the late 1960s, early ‘70s was watching Floyd,” Logan told me. “There weren’t a lot of great times. They didn’t win a lot of games.
“But I remember going to the stadium and thinking just as a kid that Floyd was always a guy that gave great effort, was a great player and played hard all the time. He was the face of the franchise at that point.”
For those who don’t know, if not for Little, the Broncos are not the Broncos. In fact, they may not even be in Denver. Logan told me that prior to drafting Little out of Syracuse in 1967, there was talk of the franchise leaving Denver.
Floyd Little ran with a time zone on his back. pic.twitter.com/HC92QbcOt9— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) January 2, 2021
According to the Broncos’ website, “In 1967, the Denver Broncos faced a crisis when voters declined a bond issue to construct a new stadium. But local fans came to the rescue, forming a nonprofit group called the ‘DOERS’ and raising $1.8 million to purchase Bears Stadium from its private owners. The following year, the addition of an upper deck increased capacity to 50,000, and the facility was re-named Denver Mile High Stadium. In 1971, voters approved a $25 million bond issue to expand the stadium to more than 75,000 seats.”
Other Broncos may have played a role in the fans saving the day, but let’s be real. The only reason they did was because of Little.
As Logan told me in 2010:
“You would be hard pressed for even the most ardent of pro football fan that didn’t live in Denver to remember anybody or much about the team at that particular point other than, ‘Oh yeah, that was the team that Floyd Little played for.’ Floyd and John (Elway) have been the two single most important players that this franchise has ever known.”
Elway is and always will be the face of the Broncos.
But if not for Little, there is no Elway in Denver.
Rest in peace to a man who not only changed and saved the Broncos, he changed and saved Denver.
Each Saturday, I do a segment on Denver radio station ESPN 1600 AM. This week, I was turned into Denver’s general manager for a day and I list the moves I would make. I also give my analysis/prediction for Sunday’s game.
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