Running backs, by the very nature of their job, have a short life expectancy in pro football. They are hit on almost every play—often by a man who outweighs them by some 20%. When they carry, they are gang-tackled; when they do not, they block either for the passer or for the other ballcarrier in the backfield, and they are always overmatched.
"You have to realize how short your life as a pro football player can be," says Little. "I know I don't have long to go in this business. So every time I run the ball, I run it like it is going to be the last time. You give it everything you've got and accept the possibility you're going to get hurt. I've been hurt a lot of times, but, you know, the way my legs are structured, I can take a blow from the side and not be hurt. See how bowed they are? When I get hit at knee level from the side, it just straightens my leg in to where it should have been to begin with. So I haven't had any really serious knee injuries."
Still, he has had to play with rib, back and shoulder injuries. "Floyd will play hurt," says Lou Saban of Buffalo, Little's former coach in Denver. "It is important for him to play no matter what his condition because he feels a responsibility to the team. Floyd has a driving force that no one I know can equal. He is a man. That's about as much as you can say about anybody."
Two weeks ago the grateful fans of Denver celebrated Floyd Little Day, honoring him for his many contributions to team and city. It was an impressive tribute. But—on the subject of recognition—if the runners all over the league keep up their present pace, Fuzzy Thurston is going to have to build a grandstand to hold the new members in his 1,000-yard dinner crowd.
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