(WSYR-TV) — Syracuse University Football legend and Football Hall of Famer Floyd Little has died at 78.
The former Denver Bronco died on Friday evening at his home in Las Vegas after battling cancer this past year, according to family. His wife, DeBorah Little, was at his side when he died.
To this day, Little remains the only running back in program history to be named a three-time All-American. With 47 scholarship offers coming out of high school, Little had his heart set on playing at Army.
That was until he had dinner with Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis, which changed everything. Little told Davis during that meeting that he would attend Syracuse University.
Well, of course, I still hadn’t made up my mind… and three months later, he died… So, I was like ‘oh, boy’… I gave him my word and I don’t own anything any more valuable than my word. So immediately, as the movie showed in the “The Express”… I call Schwartzwalder and said ‘I’m coming.’Floyd Little — December 2011
Little took it upon himself to ensure that Davis’ legacy would live on. He modeled himself after his good friend as a football player and as a man.
Really, in so many ways, I wanted to be like Ernie… And that’s why I came to Syracuse… To help be that person he would’ve been and that was my mission. He always would have time to talk, always have time to give somebody a hug… I’m the same way. And people go, ‘Why do you do that? Why do you stop?’ I want to be like Ernie Davis… He would’ve stopped and I think he would be very disappointed in me if I didn’t stop.Floyd Little — February 2015
Little never stopped practicing what he preached. He was selected 6th overall in the 1967 NFL Draft. He played all nine of his NFL seasons with the Denver Broncos. He won the Rushing Title in 1971.
In 2010, the five-time pro bowler was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Five years after that, he was enshrined at his alma mater with his own 12-foot statue, along with the other legendary 44’s: Jim Brown and Ernie Davis.
“Usually this doesn’t happen until you’re gone… So it’s very special that you can get a statue and you’re still alive where you can see it actually,” Little said in November of 2015.
Little spent several years of the last decade serving as an ambassador for the SU Football Program and the Athletic Department at Syracuse. He mentored countless young men, challenging them the same way Ernie Davis challenged him.
It’s a message that he championed during his Hall of Fame Induction speech 10 years ago. Words that he lived by and words that will carry on in his memory.
We are bound to leave everything we accomplished in this lifetime behind passing it on… So leave a legacy that you and your family can be proud of. I’ve given you the best that I got and I’m a better person for it. Thank you for being here with me and for me. I thank God for his favor today… And may God Bless us all… Thank you so much.Floyd Little — August 2010
Memorial services for Little will be announced at a later date.
Chancellor Kent Syverud released the following statement:
“Floyd Little embodied what it means to be Orange. He was an all-American student-athlete. He set records in the NFL. He achieved success in the business world. Floyd mentored countless student-athletes and dedicated his time, energy, and resources to improving the lives of others. He was a great friend, to me and to his beloved Syracuse University. Our hearts are with his wife DeBorah, and all who loved him. Floyd Little, number 44, will forever be our Orange MVP.”
ACC Commissioner John Swofford released the following statement on Saturday evening:
“Floyd was a true gentleman who will forever be remembered for his remarkable talent, which was only surpassed by his genuine spirit and true humility. Although he did not actually play in the ACC, we were so pleased when Syracuse selected him to be honored as part of our ACC Legends class in 2013. Our thoughts and prayers go out to DeBorah and the entire Little family.”