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THE UNEXPECTED HERO
GARY SMITH
July 26, 2010
FORMER BRONCOS BACK FLOYD LITTLE AND ARDENT FAN TOM MACKIE EACH HELPED THE OTHER FULFILL HIS LIFELONG DREAM
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July 26, 2010

The Unexpected Hero

FORMER BRONCOS BACK FLOYD LITTLE AND ARDENT FAN TOM MACKIE EACH HELPED THE OTHER FULFILL HIS LIFELONG DREAM

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The room's as quiet as a prayer. All eyes drop to the floor. Floyd leans forward in his chair, head tilting closer and closer toward the TV. All anyone can hear, from under his breath, is Ohboy ... ohboy ... ohboy....

Final cut. The envelope, please. Floyd's eyes shut. His nose leans past his shoe tips. His fists come up to his forehead.

"Breathe, Floyd, breathe," Tom murmurs.

"Dick LeBeau!" cries the emcee.

LeBeau—not me! Floyd's mind screams.

Pause....

"Floyd Little!"

Floyd pitches and lands face-first on the floor. He rolls onto his back and throws up his arms and legs as a TV crew bursts in and his children dive on him and his glasses fly off and his daughter swallows her gum and their sobs fill the room.

The 46-year-old white ad-copy writer, standing on the edge of the family pile, what's he supposed to do? Tom slaps Floyd's up-poked leg, yelps, "You're the man!" and backs off, dialing Emily. "This is all because of you!" Tom cries to her. Floyd grabs the phone, thanks Emily and kisses Tom on the neck, and everyone entwines arms in a circle for a prayer, a dance and a whoop.

Enter a man and a boy. The man's walking toward his mailbox carrying a toddler, both of them wearing Broncos colors. The man's planning the website he's going to launch, truegridiron.com, and his first entry, an eyewitness account of Floyd Little's induction in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 7. Tom opens the mailbox and pulls out two small envelopes with the handwriting he knows so well.

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