Broncos' Hall-of-Famer Floyd Little has Entered Hospice Care

Broncos fans received an unfortunate health update on the former player almost solely responsible for keeping the Broncos in Denver.
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Denver Broncos' Hall-of-Fame running back Floyd Little, who has been bravely battling a rare cell cancer for a while, has entered hospice care, according to former Syracuse team-mate Patrick Killorin.

Killorin had organized a GoFundMe to help Floyd and DeBorah's medical expenses after Little's diagnosis was made public back in May. Fans of the Syracuse Orange and Denver Broncos responded and had raised over $130,000 towards the cause. Killorin has provided some updates on Little's health since then. 

“Today we are going to talk about a new stage in Floyd’s journey... Hospice,” Killorin wrote Saturday night on Facebook. “Floyd’s courageous battle with a difficult disease (cancer) is now at a critical stage in his life. This is a time when a husband and wife must make important decisions regarding potential end of life decisions.”

Killorin also wrote, "Through your thoughts and contemplation, send your love and prayers for peace to Floyd, DeBorah and family....Let them know they are not alone and that their courage and love in their battle evoke our own, and in that in our prayers, we are one with them in their thoughts, their hearts and their tears."

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It is important to point out that Little is a fighter, and that the move to hospice care could be to alleviate his symptoms and to get a better quality of life. On the other hand, such a move is typically not a positive harbinger. 

Little's HoF Legacy in Denver

It cannot be overstated how much Little, 78, means to the Broncos. He was the sixth overall pick in 1967, and put a struggling team on his back, despite a void of talent around him. He was the very first draft pick that the Broncos had managed to sign in the first round of the AFL/NFL draft, and it was his move that had saved the Broncos from being relocated from Denver. 

Little's electric style won many fans and generated a lot of interest in the Broncos. In college, he was a three-time All-American at Syracuse and was inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 1983. 

In 117 career games before his retirement in 1975, Little compiled 6,323 yards on 1,641 career rushes, 43 touchdowns with a long of 80 yards, and an average of 3.9 yards per rush. Moreover, on 215 receptions, Little also compiled 2,418 yards receiving yards, nine scores and a long reception of 74 yards.

Little had a total of 54 all-purpose touchdowns, led the NFL in total yards in 1967 and 1968, and threw a touchdown pass in 1972 in an upset win against the Oakland Raiders. He was a team captain for all nine seasons he was in the league.   

While these might not seem impressive numbers today, the Broncos were not a good team for the vast majority of Little's career. Considering the dearth of offensive line talent and the fact that for the vast majority of his career in Denver, he was the only significant threat, these numbers were exceptional. 

If you think the team's current QB carousel since Peyton Manning retired is bad, consider that Little had played with 27 different QBs in Denver.  When he retired in 1975, Little had the seventh-most rushing yards in NFL history. 

He was a five-time Pro-Bowler, a one-time First-team All-Pro, a two-time Second-team All-Pro, led the league in rushing yards in 1971 and rushing touchdowns in 1973. At 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, he was the smallest back to lead the NFL in rushing since WWII. 

Little was part of the first group inducted to the Broncos Ring of Fame in 1984, and in 2010, was finally enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Broncos have only retired three jersey numbers: #18 for Frank Tripucka (later used for Manning), #7 for John Elway, and #44 for Little.

More than anything, it was Little's commitment to excellence in everything that he did. It is the essence of what being a Bronco is all about. Following the Broncos' 20-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, head coach Vic Fangio dedicated the game ball to Little. 

“We did. We talked about him, one of the all-time greats in Broncos’ history," Fangio said post-game. "Number 44, I remember him as a kid growing up, I was an Eagles fan growing up but from afar, I was a Floyd Little fan too. We did get him one and we are going to get it sent to him.”

From 2011 to 2016, he was named as the Special Assistant to the Athletic Director at Syracuse. He mentored student-athletes, and was a huge supporter of the school's football team and athletic department. 

All of the thoughts and prayers of Mile High Huddle and Broncos Country are with Floyd Little and his family at this time.

Follow James on Twitter @JamesC_MHH and @MileHighHuddle.