DAVID LITTLE: One of the very best Gator football players that ever wore The Orange and Blue.
BY PHIL HUBER
How can you forget a player who holds the Gator record for career tackles? A player who was first team All-SEC and All American. And who became a standout linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 80s and 90s? The answer is: We can’t. He was too great to forget.
When I first met David, he was an athletic, stocky 13-year-old year old. He went on to attend Miami Jackson High, where he became a very good football player, and a very good basketball player as well. For three years running, David started at point guard for Jackson, who incidentally went to the state tournament those three years in a row. But it was football that earned him a scholarship to UF, where he became a star, from 1977 to 1980.
As a senior team captain in 1980, he helped lead the Gators in the biggest one-year turnaround in the history of NCAA Division I football. From 0–10–1 in 1979 to an 8-4 bowl team in 1980. He was first-team All-SEC, consensus first-team All-American and the recipient of the Gators' Fergie Ferguson Award recognizing the "senior football player who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage.”
David finished his four-year college career with 475 tackles -- to this day still the Gators' all-time career record. He is also a member of the University of Florida’s Hall of Fame. In 1991, David was named by the Gainesville Sun as the 18th best player of the 100 all-time greatest in UF’s history.
David was introduced to me by his older brother, and my good friend, Larry Little. #66, NFL Hall of Fame member for the Miami Dolphins. Larry was David’s mentor, loving big brother and on occasion, surrogate father. During a conversation last year, Larry told me that he would love David to join him in the Florida Hall of Fame. That was all I needed to hear. I said “leave it to me.” I said that because I had an idea, and that was to get our Athletic Department in on the act.
I sent an impassioned email to Scott Stricklin, UF AD, whom I had the pleasure of meeting the prior April, asking Scott to see what he could do to give the Florida Hall of Fame a nudge in David's direction.
Scott told me that since he was rather new in the State, he didn't know the Hall of Fame members very well, but his associate Steve McClain did. Scott handed me off to Steve, and within a couple of months, I got a call from Larry, telling me that David had been selected to join him in The Florida Hall of Fame. My old friend's brother was inducted in November 2019, thanks to some members of The Gator Family. Gator Family being the operative words. It was very special.
As a bit more background: Following his exceptional college career, David went on to star in the NFL. He was selected in the seventh round (183rd pick overall) of the 1981 NFL Draft by the Steelers and selected to the Pro Bowl after the 1990 season. In his 12-season NFL career, David appeared in 179 games, starting 125 of them. He totaled ten interceptions and eleven recovered fumbles. At one point, he played in 89 games in a row, and was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 1990 season.
Sadly, David died on March 17, 2005 as the result of a weight-lifting accident; he was 46 years old. He suffered from heart disease and experienced a cardiac flutter while lifting weights at his Miami home. His was a great loss to so many. Especially to his wife Denise, their three children, his mother Ida—a community leader and matriarch of the Little family, his four sisters, and of course, his brother Larry. His funeral was attended by at least 1,000 people. Me among them.
It should be noted that the David’s family was and remains, one of Miami’s most prominent families – noted for their leadership, and countless contributions to the people of Miami/Dade. They are revered and respected and admired by all those they came in contact with, plus the millions that have read about their accomplishments, not to mention all the things that they have done for their/our hometown. I consider it a blessing to have been known by them as a friend for almost fifty years.
*Phil Huber is a freelance writer, longtime Gator fan and a 1964 graduate of Florida.