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Q&A with Floyd Little on role at Syracuse, new doctorate

Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Floyd Little (1967-75) is currently a busy man. He's long been retired after his outstanding football career with the Broncos, but Little has returned to Syracuse, his alma mater, as Special Advisor to the Athletic Director at Syracuse University.

Little, who travels with the women's basketball team, will be in attendance this Sunday in Indianapolis, Ind., as the program makes their Final Four debut against Washington. He will be rooting afar for the men's program when they take on North Carolina on Saturday in Houston. In the meantime, he caught up with us to talk about his new role, receiving a new honor (and title) and the Broncos' championship.

What's been your role with the Syracuse Athletic Department recently with each basketball team's tournament success?
"We're women's supporters. We'll be traveling with the women [to Indianapolis]. I  follow the ladies basketball team. This is the first time in history that they've made the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8, and now the Final Four. They've never done that in the history of the school.

Hall of Fame Broncos running back Floyd Little and two of his best friends and former teammates, Tom Jackson and Billy Thompson, toured the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (All photos by Ben Swanson)

Of course I also love the men. I went to school with [Syracuse Basketball Coach] Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. Nobody gave our men's basketball team a chance -- a 10th seed going into the Final Four, it's never happened. It's just been so great for Syracuse and their athletics and I'm just so pleased to be there. Last night, we had a celebration where President Obama spoke to our group, honoring one of the journalists [Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting award recipient Alec MacGillis]. It was so nice that he comes out and says—I guess the team that he picked [Kansas] didn't win—and he mentions that he was surprised by Syracuse as well.

Syracuse is doing well and I'm glad to still be there and working with the University. I'm just excited."

And I heard you received news of a new honor, is that right?
"They made an announcement at the function that I would be receiving an honorary Doctorates Degree on May 15, so now you have to call me doctor. Tell [Jim Saccomano] Sacco I'm going to be Dr. Little for now on. Not the Franchise, I'll be Dr. Little. You can officially call me Dr. Little on May 15 at 10:45 a.m."

How did you find out about that, and what was your reaction?

"They called me Friday—the chancellor [Kent Syverud] called me Friday and he said, 'Unanimously the board approved you to receive an honorary doctorate degree. Never in our history has anything ever been unanimous by all concerned and all involved. I want to offer you an opportunity to receive an honorary doctorate degree.' You deserve to be a doctor, is what he said. Of course I was overwhelmed that I will be receiving an honorary doctorate degree from Syracuse University.

It's been a great year and a great last five years that I've been at Syracuse. I've encouraged and influenced and helped a lot of the student-athletes and others. For that, they want to honor me with an honorary doctorate degree. You never know. Coming from New Haven, Conn., and never having the opportunity to do a lot of things, now I'm an honorary doctor. I have an honorary doctorate degree from Syracuse University. I am so, so happy in my journey and Syracuse has been great for me and my wife, who received three degrees. She received her undergraduate degree and now she'll receive a master's degree from the school of education. It's been a good journey for the two of us. You just can't get your arms around being an honorary doctor."

As a Broncos Ring of Famer, what was it like for you watching the team win Super Bowl 50?
"I was really excited. They reached out and invited my wife and I to be a part of the celebration, to be a part of the Super Bowl as they did when they went to New York. I was thrilled to be there and just happy for the Bowlen family, whom I have become very, very close to. Unfortunately Pat couldn't be there, but I was glad John [Elway] said, 'This one's for Pat,' because it really was.

"Pat has done so much for the organization and for players like me who never even played for him. I remember he was receiving the [Mizel Institute Community Enrichment Award in 2013] and I'm standing on the stage with [Gary] Zimmerman and John and Shannon [Sharpe], and Pat looks back and he sees all the Hall of Famers and he says, 'Floyd, would you stand with me?' Out of the four of the Hall of Famers, I'm the only one that didn't play for him. You know my feelings for Pat Bowlen are very strong and for Annabel, who I've known for many, many years, and all of his brothers.

I'm just so happy that they finally won the big one again, and they won the 50th Super Bowl, which is just unbelievable. For them to continue to include me in their family with [Senior Vice President of Business Development] Mac Freeman and [Director of Community Outreach] Bill Thompson and the rest of the gang, I'm just so thrilled. [President and CEO] Joe Ellis has reached out to me and I'm just honored to have been a Bronco. I'm happy that we won the 50th Super Bowl. I'm happy for John in his position. All the former players, we're honored to have been a Bronco."

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