We move inside the final four of our SU Top 100 list by honoring one of the many backfield greats in Orange history. Floyd Little’s presence at Syracuse stretches far beyond his play on the field, his number in the rafters or his name in the record books.
Little grew up in Connecticut and had numerous high level football offers coming out of high school. Notre Dame came calling. West Point tried recruiting him with General Douglas MacArthur. But it was a former Heisman winner out of Syracuse that ultimately convinced Little to turn Orange and etch his name in program history. Ernie Davis sold Little on becoming the next great SU running back. Since then, their lives have been forever intertwined. Although Davis died at the way too young age of 23 from Leukemia, Little often refers to Davis as the most influential person in his life.
When he arrived on campus, Little tried to emulate Davis’s game. A big part of that entailed donning the number 44. While matching Davis’s career seemed like an impossible feat, Little produced one that definitely would have made Ernie proud.
Little remains the lone 3-time first team All-American running back in Orange history, a feat that may never be topped. As a junior, he led the nation in all-purpose yards (1,990) and touchdowns (19). All of that led him to a fifth place finish in the Heisman Trophy race.
He followed that up with yet another 5th place finish in the Heisman voting the next season, making him the only player in Orange history to log multiple top five finishes.
In the record books, Little sits sixth all-time in rushing yards for the Orange. However, that number is somewhat misleading. Little racked up his 2,704 yards in just three years, while all but one of the five names ahead of him reached their totals in four. A better representation is his career yards per game, where he ranks third all-time with 90.1 yards per game, ahead of both Davis and Jim Brown. Along with that, he sits tied for second all-time in rushing touchdowns, again in just three seasons. If he were to have played a fourth season, based on his touchdowns per season average he would have elevated to first on the list.
To no surprise, Little was one of the 44 players named to Syracuse’s All-Century Team and checked in at 52nd in ESPN’s College Football 150 Greatest Players list.
In 1983, Little became the fourth Orange player inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, a number that has since ballooned to nine. His prolific NFL career landed him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. Little, along with Brown and Art Monk, form the exclusive triad of SU football players enshrined in both College’s and Pro Football’s Hall of Fames.
After his career, Little took a job with Syracuse’s athletic department as an administrator and helped to mentor a number of SU athletes with an open door to his office.
This past May, it was announced that Little was diagnosed with an “aggressive, but treatable” form of cancer. It’s a battle he’s still fighting, and you can donate to his fight through a GoFundMe set up by his former Orange teammate Pat Killorin.
Let us know your thoughts on Little’s ranking in the comments or on our Twitter account @OrangeFizz. Keep up with the final stretch of our SU Top 100 list and check out our full breakdowns on our latest episodes of Fizz Radio and the FizzCast.