Sunday, October 19, 2008

Q & A: Floyd Little, Syracuse

Floyd Little played for Syracuse University from 1964-66, when he was a three-time All American.

CFI: Tell us about your decision to go to Syracuse.

LITTLE: Well, it wasn't a difficult decision having the opportunity to meet Ernie Davis for the first time in person, sit down in your living room and chat with your sisters and your mom and talk about the success he's had as a Heisman winner, number one draft choice for Cleveland and signing a long-term (pro) contract and it could happen to you. That's pretty simple.

CFI: So Ernie played a big role in you becoming an Orangeman?

LITTLE: Yeah he was a real tremendous influence. I had been recruited by 46 other colleges and one guy that recruited me was General McCarthy for the Army. When Ernie came in and sat down with me for five minutes, I was convinced.

CFI: What did it mean to you and to America when he won the Heisman trophy?

LITTLE: I think being the first African American to win the Heisman trophy when you didn't have the fanfare that you have today. They have already decided who they thought would be the Heisman winner before the season started and back in those days, an African American wasn't even considered. So for Ernie to win the Heisman trophy when all the guys from Army, Navy and Notre Dame were winning every year…it's an accomplishment that is significant.

Growing up as a kid, who was your childhood idol?

Jim Brown was Ernie's idol and mine. Everybody that played running back was a Jim Brown fan. We all were Cleveland Brown fans and Jim Brown was the guy that really brought football into our living room. We all watched him, wanted to know how Jim Brown did. Both Ernie and I were Jim Brown fans.

What did wearing the number 44 mean?

LITTLE: In my freshman year we played six games on the freshman schedule and we were undefeated and people started comparing me to Ernie. “We have another Ernie Davis. We have another Jim Brown,” people said. My sophomore year when we played against Kansas and Gale Sayers' team came to town, I scored five touchdowns everybody starts screaming, “We have another Ernie Davis, we have another Jim Brown”. Then, and only then, did I notice that I was being compared with two great athletes from Syracuse and now I had to hold up my end of the deal and continue to perform at a high level.

CFI: Do you think it's a good thing they retired the number 44 or did you prefer the tradition of passing it along?

LITTLE: I have mixed emotions, because I had to help recruit my replacement, Michael Owens, who came on as a 44 and then after him Rob Conrad. Then they thought it was time to retire it for good, but they used it to recruit great players. I had mixed emotions because I enjoyed having the opportunity to pass it on, but you can't do that today. Yeah, they recruit people to continue the tradition, so yes I had mixed emotions. But the fact that it has been retired now for going on three years…I'm glad to go back to the Dome and see that number 44 hanging up in the rafters.

CFI: Tell us about the movie THE EXPRESS (pictured), the Ernie Davis story.

LITTLE: It's unbelievable. I mean, during the premiere everyone stood up and clapped. It is just unbelievable.

For more on the Ernie Davis Story, in theatres now; visit