Last Thursday, the Broncos inked half of their draft class to their rookie contracts, and before long, the other five will surely join them.
This annual process hasn’t always been such a routine, and if you go back far enough, you may find a time when the routine was Denver. not sign their draft picks.
Prior to the implementation of the AFL-NFL Joint Draft in 1967, the Broncos and other AFL teams struggled to beat their wealthier NFL counterparts by trying to sign draft picks. Denver has particularly failed; until 1967, the Broncos remained the only AFL team not to sign at least one first-round pick.
That changed with the advent of the Common Draft when, 54 years ago, Floyd Little signed his rookie deal with the Broncos on May 17, 1967.
“[I]A phone interview with the charming 24-year-old is one indication, “Denver Post’s Dick Connor wrote the next day,” he’s almost as happy as the Broncos to have completed two months of contract negotiations. “
According to Connor’s article, he hit the star while running to a Syracuse restaurant in the middle of his bachelor party. Little had received a set of golf clubs as part of the occasion, and he told Connor he couldn’t wait to use them in Denver.
“I can use the extra yards I hear a bullet carry through your air,” he said. “I’m very happy it’s over. I want to play Denver. I want to play for Lou Saban.… I love the way he runs himself and his business. It will be a pleasure to play for a man like that. “
In actual testimony from the time, Little also told Connor that he hoped to get a second job during the offseason in public relations.
The signing was crucial for the organization. Even before he was given the all-too-apt nickname, “The Franchise,” Little’s arrival meant bigger and better things to come for Denver.
Highlighting his signing and the Broncos’ hiring of Saban as head coach, the Post’s editorial page wrote a few days later: “There is ample evidence that the Broncos are serious on the football field.”
Little, of course, became a five-time Pro Bowler and a 2010 Professional Football Hall of Fame inductee. By the time he retired, he placed seventh in NFL history for rushing yards. career floor and was the Broncos’ all-time leading forward for over 20 years. Today, his mark is the second in Broncos history.
Little passed away earlier this year on January 1, 2021, at the age of 78.