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SU Legend Floyd Little Passes Away from Cancer, Remembered for Impact on Field and Off

The Syracuse University community lost a legend when Floyd Little died Friday from Cancer at age 78.  Little played football at SU from 1964-66, during which time he amassed 39 touchdowns and played in the Sugar Bowl and Gator Bowl with the Orange (then Orangemen).  He has a 1000-yard season in 1965. 

He went on to an illustrious career in the NFL, playing nine years for the Denver Broncos, five of them making it to the Pro Bowl.  He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  HOF President David Baker praised Little as a man as much as a football player.

"His contributions off the field were even greater than his amazing accomplishments he did on it. Floyd's smile, heart and character epitomized what it meant to have a Hall of Fame life,” Baker said in a statement.”

Little returned to Syracuse University where he was an inspiration to young student athletes and an ambassador for the school’s athletic programs.  He pledged to help young people in an address at the Hall of fame induction of other members of the Denver Broncos.

"I feel so blessed in everything, and as long as I can I will always come back [to Canton], and I always hope to see many more Broncos here with me as the years go by…. Football has given me so much, and I will always try to give back in every way to young people who need our help,” Little said during induction ceremonies for player Champ Bailey and Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen. 

He was actually an SU student at the same time president-elect Joe Biden was at SU’s Law School. 

Biden remembers Little and his legendary number 44 speeding by defenders on the field.

“In the years that followed, I got to know Floyd as the man behind the number.  He was full of character, decency, and integrity.  He was always gracious with his time with fans – parents and grandparents who wanted to introduce their children and grandchildren to a genuine roll model,” said Biden on Twitter this weekend. 

Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud also honored Little in a release calling the news of his death tragic.

"Floyd Little embodied what it means to be Orange. He was an all-American student-athlete. He set records in the NFL. He achieved success in the business world. Floyd mentored countless student-athletes, and dedicated his time, energy and resources to improving the lives of others. He was a great friend, to me and to his beloved Syracuse University. Our hearts are with his wife DeBorah, and all who loved him. Floyd Little, number 44, will forever be our Orange MVP."

Since Little is remembered by those who played with him, saw him play, and by many who knew him as mentor and school ambassador in the years following his football career, perhaps he said it best when considering his life.

“Leave a legacy that you and your family can be proud of.  I’ve given you the best that I’ve got, and I’m a better person for it.” 

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.