Floyd Little was one of the greatest running backs to emerge from the AFL-NFL merger, getting what was an expansion franchise in the Denver Broncos on the path to what is now one of the strongest brands in the NFL. Little was really the third link in an unparalleled chain of running backs at Syracuse University that included Jim Brown and then Ernie Davis, both of whom were instrumental in getting him to play for the Orangemen. He then went on to be one of the leaders in and off the field in the NFL, with his accomplishments being acknowledged by enshrinement into bit the College and Pro Football halls of Fame. A staunch advocate for education, Little went on to get his law degree after he retired, and has spent a lifetime counseling young people on the value of a career. He recently penned Promises to Keep: My Inspired Run From Syracuse to Denver to the Hall, a look at his life’s work as a professional football player and businessman.
We caught up with Floyd to talk about his time at Syracuse, the school’ move to the ACC, and what he thinks of Tim Tebow.
– Playing outdoors in central New York may not seem ideal, what was the driving reason for you to go to Syracuse in the pre-Carrier Dome days?
Well in my day there were no domes, so I didn’t have a choice. The first dome at that time was in Houston, TX. Playing outdoors in the weather conditions here at Syracuse University built a tougher person.
– You were part of a long line of elite running backs from Syracuse, what do you think about their jump from the Big East to the ACC?
Well, Syracuse University has been great in producing great running backs. With the tradition here at Syracuse and its great players, playing in the ACC is a good move. It will be more competition which will make our players work that much harder
– Having been around just after Ernie Davis and Jim Brown with the Orange, who do you think would have had the better NFL career?
Well without a doubt Ernie Davis was the best running back to ever play the game and still is to this day. But I think I would have had the best NFL career.
– For many years people felt you were overlooked as an elite running back in the NFL…did playing in Denver when you did hurt your national exposure?
Well at that time Denver was in a place where the market was low. There was not much exposure in Denver like cities such as LA ,NY and Chicago.
– Did you have any regrets not spending your career in media markets like LA or NY?
No, again it was a place that respected its icons and remembered its good players. At that time I was on a stage by myself, so it felt good not having to share that spotlight in that city.
– Who was the toughest defender you ever faced?
Well, in college it was all of Penn State’s Defense who I thought was the toughest. It was one of our biggest games each year.
Willie Linear of the Kansas City Chiefs was the toughest defender I have ever played against.
– What were the highlights of your career that most people wouldn’t know about?
Being inducted in the college football hall of fame in 1983 and the pro football hall of fame in 2010 would have to be my biggest achievements in my career. Also the Walter Camp Football Foundation Award for Distinguished American was also another great achievement.
– You also earned a degree from the University of Denver Law School, how important is education in your life and what advice do you give to young athletes entering professional sport today?
Having this legal background is good to have because it has kept me out of trouble. The value of getting an education is bigger now than it ever has been. Being a student athlete is bigger than just being an athlete. Sports only last but for so long, but an education lasts a lifetime.
– How closely do you follow the Broncos today? What was your take on the Tebow situation, which now led to Peyton Manning’s arrival in Denver?
Well I was a Tebow fan then and I still am now, he is a great player that deserves everything good that comes to him. Peyton’s arrival will be a great move for Denver. I do not see why they couldn’t have both of these great players.