One of the most unsung injustices in sports might possibly be rectified.
Floyd Little is on the cusp of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
True story, courtesy of Little himself. Several years ago, he was at an NFL event at a table with four other Hall of Fame running backs, including Gale Sayers. A fan asked for each of their autographs, and commented how exciting it was to have a football with the signatures of five Hall of Fame running backs on it. Little, ever the stand-up man, corrected the fan.
Floyd Little career statistics and awards are similar to Hall of Famers Earl Campbell, Jim Taylor, and Larry Csonka. He went to five Pro Bowls, was named to one All-League Team and, over the course of his career, led the AFL in categories like rushing yards, touchdowns, yards from scrimmage, and yards per touch. When he retired he was the seventh leading rusher in NFL/AFL history. And it has taken the Veteran’s Committee to nominate him.
More important is his importance to the Denver Broncos, the city of Denver, the American Football League, and NFL History. As the kind anonymous saint on Pro-Football-Reference.com writes, “Without Floyd's impact, the Denver Broncos would have been forced to relocate over 40 yrs ago.” This sort of thing is difficult to quantify. But the Denver Broncos were pretty bad until Little arrived in 1967. Over the course of the prime of his career, this now-vital franchise took the first steps to respectability and viability. And Little was the best player on the team. By far.
The other piece of this injustice is this. The Denver Broncos, one of the NFL’s most successful franchises since the merger in 1970 (17 playoff appearances, 6 conference titles, and 2 Super Bowl victories) have, now count ‘em with me, two members of the Hall of Fame. The Buffalo Bills, no slouches, but not as successful as the Broncos (no offense here) have nine Hall of Famers.
Out here in the Mountain Time zone, where we still ride horses to work and watch the sun set over the gorgeous vistas, we sometimes fall in the trap of self-pity over this thing called “East Coast bias.” I know, I know, it’s superficial, but it does crop up when players like Little, or the remarkable linebacker Randy Gradishar can barely get a whiff from the Hall. Shoot, one of our two Hall of Famers played half of his career in Minnesota, which has never won a Super Bowl, but is closer to the East Coast.
But all of this is whining. On February 6, 2010, Floyd Little, one of the game’s great gentlemen and one of its most underrated great players, might get his due.