Three members of professional football's Hall of Fame roster began their illustrious careers in Connecticut. Floyd Little, inducted in 2010, and subsequently honored by his hometown of New Haven, is among 280 gridiron stand-outs included in a new interactive internet feature that allows fans to see where inductees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame are from, and learn the highlights of their careers.
The interactive map was developed by Esri, a technology company in the state of Washington that “inspires and enables people to positively impact the future through a deeper, geographic understanding of the changing world around them.”
Inducted in 2010, New Haven native Floyd Little’s multidimensional talents quickly translated into success at the pro level. As a rookie he led the American Football League in punt returns with a 16.9 average on 16 returns. Little also returned a career-high 35 kickoffs for 942 yards. His combined rushing and receiving yardage total that first season was just shy of 400 yards.
In 1971, he became the first 1,000-yard rusher in Denver Broncos history. He won the NFL rushing title that year as he finished with 1,133 yards on 284 carries and scored 6 touchdowns. Little was named to two AFL All-Star Games and three AFC-NFC Pro Bowls. He was also named All-AFL/NFL twice and All-AFC first- or second-team four straight years.
In all, Little amassed more than 12,000 all-purpose yards and scored 54 touchdowns during his career that spanned from 1967 to 1975. He gained 6,323 yards on 1,641 career carries and scored 43 touchdowns. He added 215 receptions for 2,418 yards and 9 TDs. Little totaled 893 yards on 81 career punt returns and a pair of scores; and returned 104 kickoffs for 2,523 yards in his nine-season career.
The New Haven Athletic Center was officially renamed the Floyd Little Athletic Center in an impressive, two-hour ceremony in October 2011 that attracted some 200 people. A trophy showcase featuring uniforms, helmets and pictures from Little’s playing days at Hillhouse, Syracuse, Bordentown Military Institute and with the Broncos was unveiled, along with a wall plaque and, of course, the building’s new name.
“The Hall of Fame is one thing,” Little told the New Haven Register. “But having your name on a building is something different. It’s a great joy to have. No one could ever believe that a guy who came from this area, with very little means, could rise up to be an all-city, all-state, all-American, all-pro, College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s an unbelievable story, but I feel that I’ve been truly blessed.”
In addition to Little, Connecticut residents to reach the NFL and the Canton, Ohio Hall of Fame are Ken Strong, who played in the 1930s and Andy Robustelli, a league standout during the 1950’s.
Halfback Ken Strong's most publicized performance in 14 years of pro football came in the 1934 National Football League Championship Game. In that now historic game, Strong contributed 17 points on two touchdowns, two extra points and a field goal to lead his New York Giants to a 30-13 victory over the Chicago Bears. He was born in 1906 in West Haven and died in 1979 at age 73.
The Los Angeles Rams drafted Andy Robustelli, an end from tiny Arnold College, in the nineteenth round of the 1951 National Football League draft. A long shot to make the team as an offensive end since the Rams already had such stars as Tom Fears and Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch, Robustelli responded in the only way he knew how - to go all out to make good at what was available to him, the defensive unit.
He went on to become one of the finest defensive ends in pro football history, playing five years with the Rams and then nine years with the New York Giants. He was a regular for the Rams’ 1951 championship team, and the one game he missed that season was the only one he missed in 14 NFL seasons. He is credited with molding together the 1956 Giants team that won the NFL championship.
He was named All-Pro seven times and was named to the Pro Bowl seven times. In 1962 the Maxwell Club selected Robustelli as the NFL’s outstanding player, an honor that up until then was generally reserved for an offensive player. The honor was indicative of the high regard that fans, teammates and opponents all held for the future Hall of Fame defensive end. A Stamford native born in 1925, Robustelli died in 2011 at age 85.