Saturday, November 3, 2007
Happy Birthday Larry Little
Happy 62nd birthday to former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Larry Little. From 1969 to 1980 Little starred for the Dolphins and was one of the NFL's most dominant guards of all time. He was arguably the best pulling guards ever and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Born Lawrence Chatmon Little in Groveland, Georgia, he moved to Miami as young boy and grew up in Overtown during segregation. He began playing football at Booker T. Washington High School and learned the game from legendary Booker T. coach James "Dean Blue" Everett. Little played fullback on offense and defensive tackle. Like a lot of young African-American kids growing up in segregated Miami, Little dreamed of playing for the Florida A&M Rattlers. As a youngster he attended Orange Blossom Classic games at the Orange Bowl when coach Jake Gaither would bring his FAMU Rattlers down to Miami every first week of December. At the time Gaither could recruit virtually every top black athlete in the state he wanted.
However, Gaither and his coaching staff chose not to recruit Little. Playing fullback in high school, Little was considered too slow and never got the scholarship he coveted. Because Florida schools were segregated, there weren't many opportunities for black athletes. Universities like Miami, Florida and Florida State had no black athletes at the time. But Little's talents did not go completely unnoticed. He received a scholarship to play football at Bethune Cookman College in Daytona Beach.
At Bethune Cookman, Little developed into All-Conference offensive and defensive lineman and a team captain. While he was considered too slow to play fullback, he was extremely quick for an offensive lineman. His quick feet and powerful size made him the prototype pulling guard. Despite his fine college career, Little was undrafted coming out of Bethune Cookman in 1967.
He began his NFL career as an unheralded free agent with the San Diego Chargers in 1967 and enjoyed only moderate success during his two years in San Diego. In 1969, Little was traded to the Dolphins in exchange for defensive Mack Lamb, who was Little's teammate at Miami's Booker T. Washington High School. It turned out to be one of the most lopsided trades in football history. Little went on to become a perennial all-pro, while Lamb never played a down for the Chargers.
Little transformed from a project into a polished blocking machine under Dolphins offensive line coach Monte Clark. During the 1970s, when the Dolphins were a dominant team, Little became the epitome of the intimidating force of the vaunted Dolphins rushing attack. At 6-1 and 255 pounds, Little was also a superb pass blocker. Little was named all-pro and All-AFC seven consecutive years from 1971-77. He was selected to five Pro Bowls in his career and named the NFL Players Association AFC Lineman of the Year in 1970, 1971 and 1972. Along with fellow offensive linemen Jim Langer, Bob Kuechenberg, Norm Evans and Wayne Moore, the Dolphins won three consecutive AFC titles from 1971-73 and won Super Bowls VII and VIII. In 1972, Little and the Dolphins became the only NFL team to go undefeated.
Little displayed versatility, durability and dedication throughout his career. Dolphins coach Don Shula call him "a real inspiration, not just for the way he performs but also for his influence on our younger players."
Little wasn't the only talented football player in his family. His younger brother David Little was a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1981 to 1992 and was an All American at the University of Florida. David Little is still the all time leading tackler in Gators history and passed away from a heart attack in 2005.
Following his playing career, Larry Little returned to Bethune Cookman as the school's head football coach during the late 1980s. He also coached the Ohio Glory of the World League of American Football. In 1993 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and currently works as a specialist in the Miami-Dade County public school system.