As a running back for the Denver Broncos, Floyd Little was an undersized player who never stopped fighting for the extra yard.
He never quit.
In 2008, Little now admits, he quit. He gave up on his dream of becoming a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I gave up, I really did,” Little said.
The only way Little, who starred for Denver from 1967 to 75, could get in was as a senior committee nominee. In 2008, the senior committee selected Bob Hayes as a nominee. It was his second go-around in the senior committee. Hayes was finally elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.
“I thought once they were giving guys a second chance before I got a first chance that it would never happen,” Little said.”I thought I was so far in the hole they wouldn’t find me.”
However, in 2009, Little was nominated by the senior committee. As soon as he was nominated, he started to become hopeful. He kept focusing on the No. 44.
It was the number he wore in Denver. It was the number fellow candidate Dick LeBeau wore. The election was taking place the day before the 44th Super Bowl. Little’s son, Marc, was turning 44 this year. The United States is on its 44th president, Barack Obama.
“It was all falling into place,” Little said. “It was time for 44 to pay off.”
It did. Little and his friend LeBeau were elected to the Hall of Fame in February. Marc Little will present his father at the Canton, Ohio, museum on Saturday.
“It’s been surreal since I was elected,” Littlie said. “I’ve waited 35 years and now that it is here, I have so much to do it is really overwhelming.”
Little has been concentrating on his speech for several months. He has been spending the past month editing it. Candidates have just six to eight minutes for their speech. Little, 68, said he has a lifetime of people to thank for his journey to Canton.
“I need a minute for every year I’ve waited. I need 35 minutes,” Little joked. Little admitted that there are “four or five areas” of his speech during which he is worried he will get emotional. He has been trying to work on it. Still, after his long wait, he knows it might be impossible not to break down.
Little is also hoping to have some special help on the stage. He is friends with Vice President Joe Biden. The two went to Syracuse together. Biden is trying to find the time to get to the ceremony. If so, Biden will help Marc Little unveil his father’s bust.
“The only time Joe visited the Hall of Fame, he asked workers where my bust was,” Little said. “They told him it wasn’t there. He said he wouldn’t be back until it was … It’s been a long wait, but it’s almost here. I’m walking on cloud nine.”