Editor’s Note: Broncos’ Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Saccomano is in Canton, Ohio, this weekend as part of the team’s contingent for Floyd Little’s enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Throughout the weekend, Saccomano will be phoning in some thoughts and observations on Little’s big weekend.
Tonight, Floyd Little will see himself in bronze. He’ll come face-to-face with the bust of a much younger man, a symbol of all the years that went by before his recognition. His son Marc will present him, and nobody would be surprised if Little shed tears during his speech.
“Floyd’s in his 60s,” Saccomano said. “Many of the people that he played with, many of the coaches he played under are no longer with us. His mother has passed away. There will be a lot of emotion tonight I’m sure.”
Yesterday, Little participated in an equally emotional ritual at the Canton Civic Center. At a Hall of Fame ceremony, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed Marc Little an emblematic gold blazer on a center stage surrounded by every living member of the Hall, families, and friends like Jim Saccomano. Marc Little slipped the blazer onto his father, marking him a member of one of the most exclusive fraternities in sports.
Little saved the speech for tonight. As Saccomano tells it, the Bronco legend embodied pure class, looking out 360 degrees from center stage and taking a bow to all four corners of the room.
“Floyd acted like Floyd acts. He took the stage elegantly,” Saccomano said.
Ther ceremony was held after an exclusive luncheon for Hall of Famers, informally called the Nitschke luncheon because of how much former Green Bay Packers linebacker Ray Nitschke used to love the event. A terror on the field but a warm man off of it, Nitschke used to work the room at the luncheon with somuch affection that his name attached itself to the event. The luncheon is an opportunity for all the members of the Hall to share what the membership means to them, and the jacket ceremony is held afterward.
Saccomano compared the experience of entering the jacket ceremony for the former players to that of a new bride walking down the aisle.
“The part where he’s walking in there, it had to be staggering,” he said. “This is the moment where it’s all about you. Seriously, how different from a young woman walking down the aisle for a wedding?
The Hall of Famers were all doling out hugs, kisses and handshakes to the newest members of their club in accordance with the happy occasion.
Another newly minted Hall of Famer, Pete Rozelle Radio-TV Award winner Chris Berman, spoke for 23 minutes. Saccomano said the speech wasn’t a minute too long.
“It was one of those, ‘I love pro football’ speeches,” Saccomano said. “He was long, but he was riveting. Anytime someone has a passion for what he does, I think you appreciate it more. It was terrific.”
Berman’s broadcasting partner, former Broncos linebacker Tom Jackson, was also at the event. Saccomano said Berman mentioned Jackson in his speech, hoping that one day Jackson would be standing at the same podium as a recipient of the Rozelle award.
Once Jackson and Saccomano made eye contact, the old friends rushed over to catch up with each other. Since 1973, Jackson has had an uninterrupted career in pro footall as either a player or an announcer
“We’ve known each other a long, long time,” Saccomano said. “Every time Tom and I see each other it’s literally a hug and a kiss. Tom’s had quite a career.”
Some other attendees with Broncos ties included announcer Jim Gray, a huge Little fan who has long lobbied for his induction, Tom Graham, father of Daniel Graham and Broncos alumni himself, Billy Thompson, a Broncos Ring of Fame member, and Fran Lynch, Little’s roommate throughout his professional career.
Little’s Broncos head coach Lou Saban’s grandchildren were also in attendance. Saban’s grandson now plays quarterback at Mullen High School under Dave Logan.
Each inductee had a following of family and friends in town to support them in addition to the town of Canton itself, which completely centers on the induction ceremony this time of year.
Canton held a parade today, and Saccomano said there were around 200,000 people attending. Here’s a little perspective. There are only about 80,000 people in canton and about 210,000 people in nearby Akron.
Close to 4,000 civic volunteers contribute to the event by helping shuttle people around the crowded town and work the logistics of the event.
It’s all for the stars like Little, who comprise around one percent of the population to play pro football, and who’s contributions inspired a nation of fans.
“It’s the league where nobody can make a play,” Saccomano said. “Nobody can cover the wide receiver, but nobody can beat the defensive back. Nobody can block the pass rusher, but you can’t get past the stud offensive tackle. Every guy is great. Every guy is a Hall of Famer.”