NFL-Floyd Little, ‘The Franchise’ of Denver Broncos fame, dies at 78

FILE PHOTO: Aug 4, 2018; Canton, OH, USA; Denver Broncos former halfback Floyd Little acknowledges the crowd during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Grand Parade on Cleveland Avenue. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) – Hall of Fame running back Floyd Little, whose on-field heroics for the Denver Broncos earned him the nickname “The Franchise,” died on Friday at the age of 78.

A first-round draft pick out of Syracuse in 1967, Little captained the Broncos for all nine seasons of his career, earning Pro Bowl honors five times to become an icon early in the franchise’s history.

“Floyd Little was not only a Hall of Fame running back, he was a Hall of Fame person. Faith, family and football were the pillars of his life,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a written statement. “He worked to inspire many to be the best they could be.”

The league’s rushing leader in 1971 with 1,133 yards, Little was the backbone of the Broncos during a rough spell where the franchise struggled to make an impact, with the Broncos posting just two winning seasons during a career in which he put up 6,323 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns.

“Floyd Little was a true hero of the game. He was a man of great integrity, passion and courage,” said David Baker, the president and CEO of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, to which Little was inducted in 2010.

Reporting by Amy Tennery; editing by Clare Fallon