Federal Way is losing its Hall of Famer.
Longtime resident and businessman Floyd Little is heading back to his alma mater of Syracuse University to take over as a special assistant to the athletics director, the school announced Thursday.
“This has been a hard decision,” Little said. “Federal Way has been good to me. It is an unbelievable community. It’s been a great stop on my journey. I’ve made some great friends. I’ll miss Federal Way.”
Little, who was born and raised in New Haven, Conn., was a three-time All-American running back for the Orange and is a member of the college and pro football halls of fame. After Syracuse, he played seven seasons with the Denver Broncos.
“To have Floyd come back to Syracuse is like our own royalty returning to give back to his alma mater, which he has readily done over many years of gracious engagement,” Syracuse Athletic Director Daryl Gross said in a statement. “We all have been so proud of everything he has accomplished and represents. I am especially thrilled for the athletics department, the institution and the community, as Floyd will continue to make a huge impact in life.”
Little is an icon and legend on the campus of Syracuse. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and holds the Orange records for career touchdowns (46) and career punt-return touchdowns. He finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting in both 1965 and 1966.
Little followed in the footsteps of Jim Brown and the late Ernie Davis as superstar running backs at Syracuse. He also scored in 22 of 30 regular-season games, including five times in one game, while wearing the same storied number 44 as Brown and Davis.
“I have a great love for Syracuse and always have been an ambassador for the school,” Little said. “I think this is a great opportunity. I talk about ‘GPS,’ which is grace, passion and skill. My grace from God is to give so much in teaching. I think that I am a great teacher and I have a lot to give. I have so much passion for young people and want to do all I can to help them.”
His new responsibilities as the assistant to the athletics director will include donor relations, assisting with player and team development and on-campus recruiting activities. Little will also have a hand in some special projects.
“Floyd will be a tremendous asset to the athletics department, the University as a whole and the Syracuse community,” said Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Boeheim. “I’ve known him since we were students at Syracuse. Everyone will benefit from him being back on campus in his new role.”
Little, who moved to the area in 1990 with his wife, DeBorah, is the former owner of Federal Way’s Pacific Coast Ford before it went out of business in 2009. The city honored him last year, proclaiming April 6, 2010, “Floyd Little Day” after he was elected to the National Football Hall of Fame.
Following his playing days, Little was living in California and was hired by NBC as a color commentator. He was assigned to the expansion Seattle Seahawks. That’s when he fell in love with the area’s warm people and out of love with the congestion of California.
Floyd and DeBorah, who is very active with the student population within Federal Way schools, are still researching on whether or not they will have to move full-time to Syracuse or possibly keep their home in Federal Way and “commuting.”
“This has all happened within the last week, so we are still kind of spinning and reeling,” said DeBorah, who is from Syracuse. “We are trying to figure out if we can commute this thing or not. There is no direct flight to Syracuse (from Seattle), so it’s a minimum of eight hours.”
Little was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2010 after a 30-year wait.
Little was joined in the Class of 2010 by all-time greats Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith, along with former Seahawk defensive lineman John Randle, offensive lineman Russ Grimm, linebacker Rickey Jackson and defensive back and coach Dick LeBeau. Little and LeBeau were elected as senior committee nominees.
He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection as a member of the Broncos after running for more than 6,300 yards and scoring 43 touchdowns. Little led the Broncos in rushing for a club-record seven consecutive seasons, including in 1971 when he captured the NFL’s rushing title with 1,133 yards.
“We are absolutely thrilled that Floyd Little is coming home to Syracuse,” said Syracuse Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor. “While everyone knows him as a football legend and Hall of Famer, he is so much more.”
“I am glad that I can now give to students at Syracuse University, which has given so much to me,” Little said. “There are so many great, innovative things being done at Syracuse with the chancellor engaging the community in ways the university never has before and I think Daryl (Goss) has the program on its way to the national championship. I truly want to be a part of that. I am thrilled.”