The Induction Of Bronco History

Stan DyerCorrespondent IAugust 14, 2010

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 7: Floyd Little speaks to the crowd during the 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium on August 7, 2010 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Floyd Little, Fran Lynch and the ’67 NFL Draft

Former Denver Bronco Floyd Little finally made it into the Hall of Fame this year, and just 35 years after he retired - 43 years after he was drafted.  While the NFL almost forgot Floyd’s contribution to the league, few long-time Bronco fans will ever forget him, and most won’t forget the “other” back whose career in Denver almost paralleled Little’s, albeit without the numbers or the fanfare, Fran Lynch.  In a draft where the first two players chosen came from the same school, the Miami Dolphins became the first AFL Team to choose a player, and seven Hall-of-Famers would emerge, Little and Lynch joined the league together, played nine seasons together, and, when it came time to bow out, they chose the same year.

Little was among the players in the 1967 draft that included Bubba Smith, Heisman Trophy winner, Steve Spurrier, Bob Greise, Gene Washington, Alan Page, and Gene Upshaw, three of whom are now in the Hall of Fame, and that was just the first round.  Other notables joining the league that year were Lem Barney,(HOF ’92), Willie Lanier, Ray May, and Dickie Post.  It was the first time the AFL and the NFL held a “Common Draft” to avoid competition for players, and the Broncos took the opportunity to build the future of their team in that draft.  It was a good thing.  After selecting Little sixth in the ’67 draft, they wouldn’t have another first round pick until 1970.

After Floyd, the Broncos then drafted Tom Beer, Mike Current, George Goeddeke, Carl Cunningham, and, in the fifth round, Fran Lynch.  The draft lasted 17 rounds, (with Future Hall of Famers Ken Houston and Rayfield Wright going in the ninth and seventh rounds respectively), and the Broncos would take 11 more players, but only these first, six players would contribute significantly to the team.  Amidst the hoopla surrounding Denver’s first, first round pick to actually signed with the team, (a fact that helped keep the franchise in Denver), Lynch managed to earn a locker and a spot on the team, too.  He managed it for nine years. 

Lynch was never a spectacular back, (his best season was 1969 when he had 407 yards, and he only had more than 200 yards just two other times in his career), but he managed to always make the team.  Even when the Broncos drafted Heisman Trophy finalist, Bobby Anderson, eleventh in the first round of 1970, and Otis Armstrong ninth in the first round of the 1973 draft, Lynch still managed a role in the backfield and contributed, averaging a respectable 4.1 yards per carry for his career. 

Little, on the other hand, averaged 3.9 yards per carry, but had many more carries.  He ended his nine year career with 6323 yards, 52 touchdowns, five Pro Bowls, and one NFL Rushing Title.  Little also earned the heart of every Bronco fan who ever watched him play, and, finally, he earned a bust in Canton, OH. 

During the 70’s, people often spoke of Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” but Denver had their own version with Little and Lynch.  Little was the star, and Lynch provided the support, but they were just as much a backfield team as any franchise had in the 70’s.  They came on stage together, performed together, and took their bows together.  Now, if you go to Canton, you can see Little’s monument, but, just for Bronco fans, there is also the faint image of Fran Lynch’s shadow in the background.  It all began in New York on March 14, 1967 with the first, common NFL/AFL draft, just two months after the first AFL-NFL Championship Game - later known as the Super Bowl.  It ended for Little and Lynch first with retirement, and finally with the Hall of Fame induction of Bronco history.