DENVER -- With Hall of Fame running back Floyd Little in hospice care, Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio announced to his players after the team's 20-13 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday that a game ball would be sent to Little and his family.
Little, whose cancer diagnosis was announced this past May, was moved into hospice care Saturday. The Broncos rushed for a season-high 189 yards against the Dolphins, with Denver South High School graduate Phillip Lindsay finishing with 82 yards on 16 carries.
"We talked about [Little],'' Fangio said minutes after the Broncos' victory. "One of the all-time greats in Broncos history, old No. 44, I remember as a kid growing up -- I was an Eagles fan growing up -- but from afar I was a Floyd Little fan, too. ... We're going to get it sent to him.''
For many in the Broncos' passionate faithful, Little was the team's first star and known as "the Franchise.'' A familiar face and vibrant presence at team functions through the years, Little had also become regular at enshrinement ceremonies in Canton, Ohio, for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Little was enshrined in the Hall of Fame's Class of 2010. A three-time All American at Syracuse, Little was also enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
"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,'' is how Little put it in the summer of 2019 when both Champ Bailey and Broncos owner Pat Bowlen were enshrined. "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, who was the sixth pick of the 1967 AFL-NFL draft by the Broncos, played nine seasons with the Broncos as he rushed for 6,323 yards with 43 touchdowns. Those early years of the Broncos' franchise -- they were one of the original AFL teams in 1960 -- were often a struggle on the field as Little starred for teams that didn't make the playoffs.
The Broncos finished with a winning record just twice in Little's career -- in 1973 and 1974. But he was a five-time Pro Bowl selection.
Little had his No. 44 retired by both Syracuse and the Broncos. With the Broncos, Little was called "the Franchise" because his signing, when players could choose between the NFL and AFL, was credited with keeping the team from relocating in the 1960s and with helping to convince local voters to approve funds to build Mile High Stadium.