I'll keep my friends relatively anonymous for this, mostly because naming names puts you on the blacklist. (I'm not sure what I'd be blacklisted from, but you get the idea.)
I don't get impressed with people. I mean, people are impressive, but simply being an impressive person due to some sort of celebrity doesn't impress me much. In my world -- a world filled with dinosaurs playing cricket while talking about their portfolio investments in their native dinosaur tongue -- people are people; you're no different than me except in how you spend your days.
That is, of course, until I met Floyd Little.
Some friends and I -- we'll call them D., R., and E. -- went out to the Rutgers game this weekend; our plan was pretty simple -- drink some beers, eat some eats, and have a grand ol' time while Syracuse, hopefully, did something on the football field that moderately resembled competent football. (We're not a people of high expectations, of course.) Despite a weather that could be best described as "testicle hostile" at 8:30 in the morning, everything was coming together: We joined up with some of D. and E.'s friends and family in the shadow of High Point Solutions Stadium -- what, exactly, does that company do other than sponsor a stadium? -- and started having a grand time.
Then, after a trip to one of New Jersey's finest portable restroom facilities, R. came back to the tailgate and announced that he thought he saw Floyd Little. Now, there's apparently a running joke that R. seems to see Floyd Little all over the place -- at the grocery store in Knoxville, Tennessee; on the morning news delivering the traffic and weather reports together on the eight's; selling sledge-o-matics at local houseware shows; etc. I, though, was not deterred. "Well, let's go meet him!" And off we went.
We headed back toward the portable restrooms and gawked through the chain-link fence to see if R.'s assertion of who he thought was Floyd was actually Floyd. (I'm not sure if we were penned into the fancy tailgating area or if Floyd was. I just assume that New Jersey is a series of chain link fences, cordoning off people from other people just because Big Chain Link Fencing runs the state.) It was. It was Floyd Little. It was one of the coolest moments in my life, standing 20 yards from an NFL Hall of Fame member and one of the most important figures in Syracuse football history. I don't know why that feeling came over me; after Syracuse won the national championship in 2003, I met Jim Boeheim after the game, shook his hand, we chatted for a split second, and I just went about my business of conducting Hoya Suxa business. (I'm not exactly sure what that is.) But it happened, and it was about to get a bunch more fun.
We ambled over to Floyd, waiting a minute or two for him to finish taking a picture with some other folks, and finally approach the legend. "Mr. Little," I sputtered. I'm such a turd. Everyone on the planet probably calls him Floyd, and I'm like a six year-old addressing my teacher for feedback on my finger painting project. "Mr. Little, would you mind taking a picture with us?"
Floyd couldn't have been any nicer. We snapped off the above photograph, and as you can see, he clearly became our best friend forever. Just look at that: Arm slung over my shoulder like we've been bridge partners for the better part of 25 years and standing close enough to D. and R. that we look like a regular crime stopping team with renegade possibilities. It was so cool; it was so freaking cool.
(As an aside, there are a few important notes about the photo. First, Floyd, as you can see, is wearing his Hall of Fame jacket, which means that of the 45,000 people in and around High Point Solutions Stadium that day, Floyd had no peer in the swag department. He was also pimping his Hall of Fame ring on his right hand, and that baby is a sight to behold. Second, Floyd isn't the biggest cat in the world, as most of us -- sorry R. -- were taller than "The Franchise." So, obviously, we never found our calling as elite NFL running backs destined, absolutely, for induction into a franchise's ring of honor and the Hall of Fame. Finally, my right hand is tucked behind my back because I didn't want Floyd to be embarrassed that he was taking a photograph with some schlub holding a tall boy of something-or-other. So I hid the beer behind my back and just decided to look like your run-of-the-mill bozo.)
That moment of taking a picture with Floyd would've been the highlight of the day, but, right after, Floyd was nice enough to chew the fat with us, which was insane. We're three knuckleheads; Floyd has important business to conduct for the university -- I assume -- and he took the time to talk with us merely because we wanted to. Who does that in 2012? It's not like Floyd's hanging on to the glories of the past. He did it because he is genuinely a nice guy and, I am now convinced, one of the jewels in the Syracuse University community. Here's some stuff that we talked about:
- We asked Floyd what he's been up to since taking the Special Assistant to the Athletic Director position. His response? "I'm doing all the [stuff] that Daryl doesn't want to do." That made me laugh. It also opened the opportunity for D. to ask Floyd if Daryl was around for the game and if he was drinking Cosmopolitans. I don't think Floyd got the joke.
- Floyd mentioned that he does meet with recruits, and after our little meeting with Floyd, I don't understand how any recruit doesn't commit to Syracuse on the spot. It doesn't appear limited to football recruits, though, as Floyd mentioned that just that week he had met with a stud women's basketball target. Good on Hillsman for noticing that Floyd Little is just about the most cordial thing on the planet. He is so contagious that it's almost unfair.
- After football Floyd owned car dealerships pretty much everywhere for 32 years. I'd buy a car from him. In fact, I'd probably buy a car from him if the cost included forking over a kidney.
- For all you history and/or Connecticut folks: D. and I peppered him with questions about growing up in New Haven. He apparently has the athletic facility at Hillhouse High School named after him -- neat! -- and, according to Floyd, he was a hell of a basketball player when he was young. He gave us pointers on how he used to rebound the basketball while being undersized, but considering that he was telling this to three dudes that had been drinking beers for two hours and have a better chance at owning a basketball franchise than playing for one, it was neat in a very tangential way. Also: Floyd has no particular opinion on the current New Haven pizza spots. (Modern Apizza, regardless of your opinion, is clearly the best and I made this plain to Floyd.)
- Then there's this: We asked Floyd about unretiring 44. I don't know if this was Floyd just humoring us or what, but this was his response: "I'm going to bring back 44!" You're on double-secret-retiring-of-44 probation, Dr. Gross.
All in all, it was one of those moments that I probably won't forget. I don't know why Floyd made such an impression on me -- hell, I'm smiling like a moron as I type this right now -- but he really did. There are a lot of really good people in the world, and Syracuse has one of them working in the athletic department.