Farewell to Floyd

As new stands at Mile High Stadium continued to rise, the Broncos fell for the first time in the John Ralston era, dropping below .500 to 6-8 after consecutive winning seasons.

It was a year of transition. Charley Johnson started six games at quarterback in his final professional season, with Steve Ramsey and John Hufnagel handling the rest of the work. Rookie wide receiver and kickoff/punt returner Rick Upchurch electrified fans from the outset, racking up 286 all-purpose yards during a wild 37-33 season-opening win against the Chiefs, and young backs Jon Keyworth and Otis Armstrong began working their way into the attack.

But the biggest transition came when Floyd Little announced that his ninth season would be his last. He was sharing the backfield load and wasn’t racking up the same numbers he amassed earlier in his career, but he remained vital to the Broncos’ cause — right up until the home finale against Philadelphia on Dec. 14.

Some 15,000 ticket holders had not bothered to show up on the frigid, 18-degree day. What they missed was one final dose of Floyd Little magic. With the game tied at 10-10, the Broncos assumed possession at their 34-yard line with 1:45 left in the third quarter, and Little spoke up:

“Everybody get somebody; I’m going to take it the distance.”

Ramsey called a swing pass. Little caught it at the Denver 42 and moved as if fired from a cannon, darting through Philadelphia defenders as though they were traffic cones. For one moment, this was the Little of the early 1970s, and he didn’t stop until reaching the end zone with a 66-yard catch-and-run to give the Broncos the lead for good.

“Honest to God, it was kind of like Babe Ruth (calling his shot),” Ramsey said.

Fans carried Little off the field. The Eagles could only look on in awe. Philadelphia head coach Mike McCormack said, “I would like to have 43 Floyd Littles.” The Broncos had the one and only, and the franchise was forever changed.

1975 schedule

Date Opponent Score
9/21 kansas city chiefs 37-33
9/29 green bay packers 23-13
10/5 at buffalo bills 14-38
10/12 at pittsburgh steelers 9-20
10/19 cleveland browns 16-15
10/26 at kansas city chiefs 13-26
11/2 oakland raiders 17-42
11/9 cincinnati bengals 16-17
11/16 at san diego chargers 27-17
11/23 at atlanta falcons 21-35
11/30 san diego chargers 13-10
12/8 at oakland raiders 10-17
12/14 philadelphia eagles 25-10
12/20 at miami dolphins 13-14

1975 offense

Pos Player Starts
qb john hufnagel 1
qb charley johnson 6
qb steve ramsey 7
rb otis armstrong 3
rb jon keyworth 14
rb floyd little 10
rb fran lynch 1
wr jack dolbin 1
wr haven moses 14
wr bill van heusen 13
te riley odoms 14
c bobby maples 14
t mike current 7
t claudie minor 14
t marv montgomery 7
g paul howard 14
g tom lyons 10
g carl schaukowitch 2

Jan. 26, 1976: TE Riley Odoms makes his third consecutive Pro Bowl appearance, and ILB Randy Gradishar makes his Pro Bowl debut.

1975 defense

Pos Player Starts
de rubin carter 7
de barney chavous 9
de john grant 13
de phil olsen 1
dt lyle alzado 14
dt paul smith 12
lb randy gradishar 14
lb tom jackson 14
lb ray may 8
lb joe rizzo 6
cb calvin jones 8
cb/s john rowser 13
cb earlie thomas 6
cb louis wright 11
s randy poltl 1
s jeff severson 3
s billy thompson 14

Record: 6-8

Second place AFC west

Sept. 29, 1975: The Broncos defeat Green Bay, 23-13, for their first-ever win on Monday Night Football.