02-04-2010, 03:57 AM
This Saturday, February 6 at 5 PM eastern, Floyd "The Franchise" Little may finally be called to take his rightful place in Canton.
As many of you know, this will be broadcast live on the NFL network.
This thread is to send out some positive Mile High Vibes to Floyd!
FLOYD, IT'S BEEN A LONG ROAD AND HELL, YES, YOU'RE STILL BREATHING. THE TIME IS NOW FOR YOU TO JOIN THE ULTIMATE TEAM IN CANTON.
I BELIEVE! 44 FLOYD LITTLE!:sunshine:
02-04-2010, 09:37 AM
Floyd Little comes up for a big vote by the selectors of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, and if all is right and just, he should be selected.
There are no guarantees, but beyond the extraordinary hold that he still has on the hearts and minds of Denver Broncos fans, his body of work screams for induction.
The statistics have been gone over and poured over time after time, but there are a couple of other facts to consider in “out of the box” thinking regarding Floyd.
He was the heart and soul of the Broncos and the Mile High City at a time when pro football was growing here and the team was lousy, to be very, very kind.
He was the kind of person who was selected team captain by his teammates nine years out of nine.
I was a young radio reporter during much of Floyd’s career, in addition to spending three years with the Denver Bears at that time, and I was a Broncos season ticket holder.
So I saw virtually every game he played, and knew him well. I still prize his friendship.
You had to see him, and you had to know him, to understand the command he projected and the leadership which he gave to the team and to the community.
And he carried the team on his back, make no mistake about it.
His nickname was The Franchise, never a more accurate one in the history of pro football.
He is the only running back in the history of pro football to lead the league in rushing while playing for a last place team.
He was on an all-decade team - again, while playing for a last place team. Just think about it, and it staggers the imagination.
In Floyd Little’s career he only played behind three linemen who ever made any kind of all-star team, Larry Kaminski, Mike Current, and George Goeddeke, one time each, and I’ll bet many people reading this never heard of any of them.
Let’s take a look at several Hall of Famers and see what kind of blocking they had.
Jim Brown, regard as the greatest back in pro football history, wore number 44 at Syracuse before Floyd. Brown played behind eight different linemen who made a combined 20 Pro Bowls, and three of those blockers went into the Hall of Fame.
Jim Taylor was a cornerstone of that great Green Bay Packers team, and he ran the ball behind four players who made a combined 16 Pro Bowls, with two of them making the Hall of Fame as blockers.
Joe “The Jet” Perry - yes, I realize you never heard of him, but he was a stud, believe me - was a great back for the 49ers and Baltimore for 14 years. Perry played behind 11 men who made a combined 17 Pro Bowls, and three of them made the Hall of Fame.
O.J. Simpson ran to glory behind three players who made a combined five Pro Bowls, and two were elected to membership in Canton.
LeRoy Kelly had a great 10-years career with the Cleveland Browns, and his line included four players who made a combined 13 Pro Bowls, with Gene Hickerson making the Hall of Fame.
John Henry Johnson played for 13 years and in his time had 12 different linemen who made a combined 16 Pro Bowls, with two earning Hall of Fame induction.
For Floyd Little, no blockers who ever made the Pro Bowl, three who made the AFL all-star game once each, and no Hall of Famers, certainly.
For the other six, 42 combined offensive linemen who made a combined 87 Pro Bowls, with 13 who made the Hall of Fame.
Really, let’s be serious.
Floyd Little was one of the greatest players in the history of pro football.
Plus, he passed the “eye” test. If you saw him play, you knew what you were watching.
Let’s cross our fingers and hope these figures make sense to the selectors this Saturday.
The Franchise, one more time.
02-04-2010, 08:07 PM
Below is a recent story about Floyd . . . it's long but so is the impact Floyd had on the Broncos . . . thanks to him, 40 straight sold-out seasons . . . in DENVER!
The Last Big Hurdle for Broncos Legend Floyd Little
More than 40 years after saving the franchise from leaving Denver and laying the foundation for 4 decades of sold-out seasons, Floyd “The Franchise” Little is finally – surreally— a hurdle away from football immortality.
By The Moops
It was a call that Floyd Little never thought he would hear. Certainly, not in his lifetime. Since 1980, his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility, “The Franchise” had been told by countless teammates, coaches, players from his era, fans, friends, and loved ones that he would someday join the ultimate football team in Canton.
“When I reached 5,000 rushing yards, which was a huge milestone during my era, I first heard ‘Future Hall of Famer’ attached to my name,” recalls Floyd. “So when I retired as the NFL’s 7th all-time rusher with over 6,300 yards, I thought the phone would ring sooner than later.”
Sooner never came. For years the only ringing Floyd heard was in his ears from fans asking him why he wasn’t in Canton. Decades passed, the millennium came and went. A young man of 33 when he retired, Floyd, now 67, felt forgotten by Hall of Fame voters.
“I thought last year was my final chance,” said Little. “When I got snubbed again, I was done.”
Last year a Hall of Fame friend of Floyd said he was going to get the call. When he was passed over again, Floyd finally gave up hope.
For the first time, Floyd refused to discuss the Hall of Fame. For the first time, if a sportswriter asked about his chances, he politely declined to talk about it. For the first time, he wasn’t aware when the 2 Seniors Nominees would be announced.
“I thought they had already been announced the week before,” says Floyd. “I just figured I was passed over again.”
The next week on the morning of August 25, while having tea at his home in Seattle with his wife, DeBorah, the phone finally rang.
“DeBorah picked up and her eyes widened,” says Floyd. “‘It’s Joe Horrigan from the Pro Football Hall of Fame,’ she gasped.”
Floyd nervously took the phone and heard Horrigan utter words he waited half his lifetime to hear: “You and Dick LeBeau are the two Seniors Nominees for 2010 Hall of Fame induction.”
“I was shocked,” says Floyd. “I said, ‘Thank you so much. This is a great day for me and Broncos fans. It’s an honor and a privilege to be nominated.’”
Floyd spent the next two weeks flooded by calls from friends, family and countless media outlets.
“I did interviews one after another. I don’t think I slept for 48 hours,” says Floyd. “It’s been incredibly exciting. I still can’t believe it.”
An uphill journey from rock bottom
Floyd’s winding, zigzag journey to the steps of Canton reveals an epic uphill climb filled with bruises, broken bones and embattled dreams.
Unlike most players in Canton, Floyd started at rock bottom playing in the “other” league for a Broncos team that had compiled the AFL’s worst record during its seven-season history. Before the 1967 draft, ticket sales were at an all-time low. The owners couldn’t raise funds to expand Bears Stadium to the mandatory 50,000 seats required for the upcoming AFL/NFL merger. The team was threatening to move to Birmingham, Alabama or Chicago.
So the Broncos hired Lou Saban, who led the Buffalo Bills to back-to-back AFL Titles in 1964 & ’65, but the city still turned down a tax to expand the stadium. The team needed to draft a great player to build excitement. Saban and his staff decided on guard Gene Upshaw, the huge All-America from Texas A & I.
But right before their pick, Saban realized Upshaw wasn’t the impact player Denver needed to revive its fan base. He recalled Jets coach Weeb Ewbank saying Floyd Little was “the best college football player he had yet seen” and turned to PR Director Val Pinchbeck, who had been the Sports Information Director at Syracuse, and asked to speak to him privately.
“Lou Saban took me into a room,” said Pinchbeck in a 1983 interview, “and asked, ‘Is Floyd Little the kind of leader, the kind of quality person who can come in here with a new, young football team and help us get to where we want to go?’ I said, ‘Yes, he is Lou, but you have already decided to select Gene Upshaw.’ Lou said, ‘We’re going to select Floyd Little.’ The Broncos did and as everyone knows it was to their benefit.”
Floyd’s signing as the first-ever #1 pick created an avalanche of elation in Denver. His impact was felt immediately.
“Floyd became the difference-maker that kept us in Denver,” says Hall of Fame tackle Stan Jones, who was an assistant under Saban. “He literally saved the Broncos from extinction. He got the fans to vote to expand the stadium. He got on a bus and went to Wyoming, Nebraska you name it to meet fans. Everyone rallied around him. He was the catalyst that helped sell out the new stadium.”
The 25-year-old rookie’s leadership was palpable from the get-go. His signing and popularity resulted in overwhelming fan interest, keeping the Broncos from relocating. He was voted team captain his rookie year and every year after. Floyd also immersed himself in the community, becoming a special assistant to Governor John Love.
Still with a record 26 rookies in 1967, the offense struggled mightily. Saban also squandered the future by sending the rival Chargers two 1st-round picks in 1968 and ’69 for backup quarterback Steve Tensi. He was strong-armed, but injury prone. The line had some talent with center Larry Kaminski and tackle Sam Brunelli, but they were inexperienced. Players were signed and cut sometimes on the same day. There was no cohesion and Floyd, at just 5-10, 195-pounds, took a beating. Still, Floyd insisted on playing special teams and the rookie led the AFL in punt returns – including a scintillating 72-yard TD against the Jets – plus led the entire league with 1,604 combined yards.
His second year in ‘68, Floyd exploded with 147- and 126-yards rushing in back-to-back games. And led the AFL again with 1,825 combined yards – a mind-blowing 166 per game. Floyd scored on another punt return and became the only returner to score TDs in 1967 and ’68. Though he was selected to his first AFL All-Star game, the quarterback situation was still a mess. A record 5 QBs started for the Broncos that season.
“The thing that is so amazing about Floyd’s career is it (the Broncos) wasn’t a good football team he was playing for,” says Jones. “When he ran, he was pretty much on his own. The fact that he was able to be so productive was unbelievable… I played with Gale Sayers, and I would put him in the same class.”
In 1969, Floyd’s third season, he emerged as the best running back in the AFL and NFL. He rushed for over 100 yards in Week 1 vs. the Patriots, another 100-plus in Week 2 against the World Champion Jets, popped for 133 yards from scrimmage against Kansas City, and 92 tough yards vs. Oakland. Then Floyd dominated with a 166 yard rushing performance at Cincinnati – the most by any runner that season.
After 5 games, Floyd was averaging 106 yards rushing and on his way to a 1,400-yard season before a devastating knee injury put him on crutches for most of the season. He worked hard to make it back for the last few games to finish with 729 rushing yards and a league-high 5-yard average. His huge rushing lead was finally eclipsed by Gale Sayers who became the only back to gain 1,000 yards (1,032). Still, Floyd’s dominating performance garnered him First-Team All AFL (All Pro) honors.
The NFL’s most complete back
Along with his prowess as a runner, Floyd quickly became the league’s most dangerous receiver out of the backfield. In 1968, he had 381 yards receiving averaging 17-yards a grab. In essentially a half-season in ’69 season, he added another 200-plus reception yards.
“Floyd was as good as I’ve ever seen at perfecting the screen pass,” says Hall of Fame tackle and former Eagles coach Mike McCormack. “He helped establish it as a dangerous play.”
Says Hall of Famer Lance Alworth: “Floyd was not only a great runner, but a damn good receiver too. There weren’t too many guys like that then. And today, there aren’t many guys like him.”
For his career, Floyd amassed 2,418 receiving yards – 21 yard per game – explosive numbers compared to HOF backs from his era.
Along with his rushing, receiving and return exploits, Floyd also was fierce blocker. So impressed with his blocking prowess, the coaches had Floyd switch positions with the fullback on passing downs in order to help block the quarterback’s blindside.
“I don’t ever recall a half-back being the better blocker,” says Jones. “But that was Floyd. We made him switch to take on the tougher assignment. That’s how complete of a player he was.”
Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham echoes Jones’s sentiments: “Floyd Little was the most complete back I ever played against.”
“Floyd was a nemesis for the Raiders for years,” says John Madden. “You know, Denver wasn’t a great team back then, but Floyd Little was a great player. He was really a complete back. He could run with it, he could block, he could catch it – he could do everything with it.”
All-Pro toughness on a last-place team
Even as the most complete back of his era, toting the rock remained Floyd’s tour de force. Despite his size, he was a rare every-down back. He could get tough yards up the gut, turn the corner with silly acceleration, or traverse across the field leaving tacklers grabbing at his vapor trail.
In 1970, the first year of the merger, Floyd led the AFC in rushing despite playing with broken bones in his back. Unfortunately, quarterback was still the team’s Achilles heel. Saban brought in Pete Liske and Al Pastrana, but still finished last.
The next year, 1971, Floyd managed to lead the entire NFL in rushing with 1,133 yards – all the more incredible considering the team was falling apart. In the 5th season as Broncos’ coach, Saban’s team remained in last place with the QB carousel in full force. Saban dumped Liske and Pastrana. Tensi retired. So Saban traded for more backups – the Packers’ Don Horn and Saints’ Steve Ramsey. The new QBs combined for 8 TD passes and 27 interceptions.
Disgusted, Saban resigned with 5 games left making Floyd’s rushing title all the more eye-popping. His accomplishments as the team’s lone offensive threat were not lost on future Hall of Famers from around the league.
“I consider Floyd Little the first triple-threat running back of the modern era,” says Hall of Famer Mel Blount. “He was the first back that was a real threat running, catching passes, and returning kicks. He gave defensive coordinators nightmares.”
“When you played the Broncos you played Floyd Little,” says Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti. “You didn’t worry about the passing game. You didn’t worry about anything else except him – Floyd was the difference-maker.”
Still, the QB situation continued to hurt the team.
“I was frustrated,” says Floyd. “Lou brought in 27 quarterbacks in five years and we were still in last place. I had played in numerous Pro Bowls, but it meant nothing because we weren’t winning. I was already 30 and only had a few years left.”
In 1972 new Coach John Ralston traded for veteran QB Charley Johnson, finally giving the team stability at the most important position.
Like he had always done, Floyd continued to play hurt. Excited to have a capable QB in the lineup, Floyd played all 14 games despite torn knee cartilage. Somehow he slugged out 859 yards rushing, another 367 yards receiving, and scored 13 TDs.
Fans thank ‘The Franchise’
Broncos fans showed Floyd how much they appreciated his huge impact on the field and off by celebrating “Floyd Little Day” on October 29, 1972, at Mile High Stadium.
Yet even after all the Pro Bowls and back-to-back rushing titles, Floyd remained the NFL’s best kept secret.
“The Broncos didn’t appear on Monday Night Football until 1973,” says Floyd. “I was 31 by then, and many writers had never seen me play!”
Coming back from major knee surgery, Floyd rushed for 979 yards in ‘73, missing 1,000 by a mere 21 yards – and led the NFL in rushing TDs. He also caught 41 balls for 423 yards, and earned his 5th Pro Bowl honor.
To put Floyd’s astounding production in perspective, during a six-year run from 1968 to 1973, no NFL back rushed for more yards or more yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving) than Floyd Little.
Two years later at age 33, Floyd finished his career with the same fireworks as he began. Playing in a snow storm, Floyd piled up 150 yards and scored two TDs, one an electrifying 66-yard score off a screen pass. After the gun sounded, Fans blanketed the frigid field and hoisted “The Franchise” on their shoulders.
Floyd retired as the NFL’s 7th all-time rusher, 8th in yards from scrimmage, 8th in combined yards with 12,157 and scored 54 TDs. During his career only O.J. Simpson rushed for more yards. Mind-boggling accomplishments for a team that was 47-73-6 during Floyd’s career.
Perhaps, his old teammate at Syracuse, Hall of Famer Larry Csonka puts it best about Floyd’s amazing career.
“There are people that are competitors that earn the right to go into the Hall of Fame. Then there are people that ride in on the laurels of others,” says Csonka. “Floyd Little earned every yard he ever gained in the NFL. He not only retired as the 7th leading rusher in NFL history, he earned every step of it.”
One more hurdle
As the savior responsible for keeping the team in Denver and laying the
foundation for generations of loyal Broncos fans, Floyd finds out this Saturday, the day before Super Bowl 44, whether he will be enshrined in Canton.
Election requires 80 percent approval by the 44 voters. Now on the threshold of football immortality, Floyd exudes confidence about clearing the final hurdle.
“I’m not going to think about whether I won’t make it, it’s not part of my thoughts,” says Floyd. “There are so many people, the Denver fans who have waited for this day, and the Broncos organization that has seen its stars passed over so many times for this honor. If I don’t make it this time, I will not be around if I get another opportunity.
“This is the time for me, my family and Broncos fans. We all have to revel in this experience and try to enjoy the moment. I have to believe that when the final vote is cast that I will be one of the 2010 inductees. I think Dick LeBeau and I should both get in. Both of us wore 44, both of us played in the same era. It’s the 44th Super Bowl, there are 44 writers, Obama is the 44th president. I believe it’s in the stars.”
02-04-2010, 09:27 PM
Floyd is everything you wanted in a football hero. Growing up, I idolized him. Bought magazines when his picture was in them. Was ecstatic when i got a Slurpee with his face on it. Begged my parents to buy "Star Running Backs of the NFL," a book that profiled Floyd and other RBs like Larry Brown, Ron Johnson; and "Little Men of the NFL," which profiled guess? Floyd was the main story with others about Fran Tarkenton, Randy Vataha, and Nemiah Wilson. So when I had the chance to meet him 7 years ago, I couldn't imagine him being better than what I had built him up to be all those years as a kid. He was. Better than I imagined. Funny, friendly, sincere, thoughtful, down to earth, compassionate and a man of his word. Integrity is what i think about when I think of Floyd Little. He's truly an uncommon man.