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Floyd Little, Syracuse and Broncos great, dies at 78

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AP1969

FILE - In this Sept.1969 file photo, Denver Broncos' Floyd Little avoids the tackle of New York Jets' Steve O'Neal (20) during a football game in Denver. Little, the Hall of Fame running back who starred at Syracuse and for the Denver Broncos, has died. The Pro Football Hall of Fame said he died Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/File)

DENVER – Floyd Little, the versatile running back who starred at Syracuse and for the Denver Broncos, has died after a long bout with cancer. He was 78.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame said he died Friday night at his home in Nevada.

“Floyd Little was not only a Hall of Fame running back, he was a Hall of Fame person,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “Faith, family and football were the pillars of his life.”

Little was a three-time All-American at Syracuse, where he wore No. 44 like Jim Brown and Ernie Davis before him. From 1964-66, he ran for 2,704 yards and 46 touchdowns.

Little was the sixth overall pick in the 1967 AFL-NFL draft. He played nine seasons in Denver, where he earned the nickname “The Franchise” because his signing was credited with keeping the team from relocating and helped persuade voters to approve funds for the old, iconic Mile High Stadium, which has since been replaced by Empower Field at Mile High.

“I know when I got there the talk was about the team moving to Chicago or Birmingham,” Little told The Associated Press in an interview in 2009. “So, I supposedly saved the franchise.”

Little was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

“Floyd Little was a true hero of the game," said David Baker, president and CEO of the pro hall. “He was a man of great integrity, passion and courage. 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."