Syracuse University Football Player and Hall of Famer Floyd Little Dies at 78

Saturday, Jan 02, 2021 at 4:15 pm by

Yaw Bonsu, SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Floyd Little, former Syracuse University and Denver Broncos running back, passed away on Saturday at the age of 78. Little is a Class of 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame member.

“Floyd Little embodied what it means to be Orange,” said SU Chancellor Kent Syverud. “He was a great friend, to me and to his beloved Syracuse University.”

Current SU Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jim Boeheim also weighed in on the news of Little’s passing. “I have lost a great friend and Syracuse University has lost one of its all-time greatest ambassadors,” said Boeheim on Twitter Saturday, “Floyd Little brought a smile to the face of everyone he encountered.”

It was a 45-minute conversation (in a Yale University bathroom) with fellow SU legend Ernie Davis that sparked Little’s decision to attend Syracuse as a football player. 

Learning of Davis’ death just 17 months later, Little knew that attending Syracuse was the right decision for him. “It wound up being one of the greatest decisions of my life,” Little recalled in a 2010 interview. And it was at that time that Little would wear the legendary number 44 for the Orange.

By the time Little graduated in 1967, he had exceeded all of the expectations set by his predecessors. Little became the first three-time All-American for the Orange in nearly 50 years. 

Little finished that regular season with 828 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. “Ol’ Jim, then Ernie, now Floyd,” said then-SU coach Ben Schwartzwalder in his office one day. He knew that the number 44 had a future SU legend wearing it. 

The record books in Syracuse Football soon became authored by Little. Over 2,000 yards and 50 touchdowns later, he was arguably the greatest football player in school history. Little capped off his college career as a top-five Heisman candidate. 

“I was blessed to wear the same jersey my predecessors Ernie and Jim Brown wore,” said Little in the foreword of ‘100 Things Syracuse Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. “I’d like to think that I did my share to add to the legacy they started.”

In 1967, Little was drafted sixth overall to the Denver Broncos. He racked up over 6,300 yards, 40 touchdowns, four Pro Bowl honors, and led the league in rushing in 1971. More than anything, he became the launchpad for the Broncos’ success.

In 2011, Floyd made what could be considered the greatest impact of his football career. He returned to Syracuse as a special assistant to then-athletic director Daryl Gross. 

“This latest job has been the most rewarding because every day I get the opportunity to motivate and inspire young student-athletes,” Little said in the foreword. “I have so many fond memories of SU. It’s a place that certainly changed my life.”

While Little considered his time at Syracuse a time that changed his life, there is no doubt that Little changed Syracuse forever. The legendary number 44 will forever be linked to Floyd Little as a player, special assistant and Hall of Famer.