He became bitter.
After years of heartbreak, bewilderment and frustration, little reached a point where he felt the most recent vote taken last February would be his final chance to get in. And when he made it as a senior candidate -- the final hope for players long passed over for induction -- the former Denver Broncos' running back found himself rethinking his feelings of injustice and decided he should feel blessed.
It is a sentiment Little plans to express during Saturday night's induction speech, which he said will be delivered in the form of a story about his life rather than the standard address most inductees give.
Little has stopped fretting over the notion that being the only great player on a very bad team was being held against him, even though he produced numbers comparable to other great players who entered the Hall of Fame with much stronger supporting casts. He is focused on the possibility that other forces could have been at work all these years.
"Maybe it was in God's plan for me to be in at this moment," Little said. "I come in on the 44th Super Bowl, I come in with the 44th president, I come in with my son being 44, (and there were) 44 voters (on the selection committee)."
Now, Little prefers to leave it to others to talk about any injustice on his behalf. That's what happened during Friday's annual Ray Nitschke Luncheon, where members of the current Hall-of-Fame class are welcomed by previous inductees.
"(Former Miami Dolphins quarterback) Bob (Griese) got up and he said, 'This guy was a great football player,'" Little said. "Same with (former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker) Willie Lanier. They were (my contemporaries), and they each said that (I) should have been in long before now.
"But the time is now for me. This is my time, and I've got to accept that as my time, and I can't be mad about being overlooked because I played for the Broncos my whole career."
NOT EASY BEING SEEN BUT UNHEARD
The rule at the Ray Nitschke Luncheon is that members of the current class are only supposed to listen -- and not speak -- as the previous inductees address the room.
The policy can be challenging to players who are used to being the center of attention. It was particularly difficult for at least one member of the Class of 2010: former New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Rickey Jackson.
"Guys have been leaders in what they've been doing, and they want to say something," Jackson said. "When you're saying something to me, I don't care who you are -- Deacon Jones or whatever -- I've got something to say back to you. What can you do to me? I ain't afraid of you, but I had to humble myself."
A PAIR OF OVERACHIEVERS
Despite entering the NFL as first-round draft picks, it was hardly a lock that Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice would be Hall of Famers.
They earned their way to Canton, overcoming plenty of doubt along the way to become the NFL's all-time leading rusher and receiver, respectively. And, in a twist of fate, their first-ballot eligibility came up at the same time, despite the fact their careers began at different times.
"This is a spiritual thing," Smith said. "This goes against and defies all odds, because Jerry was probably never projected to be who he was and who he is -- and the same thing for me. So for us to have achieved what we've been able to achieve in our sport, during the time frame that we played, and finish up our careers the way that we've done, to go into the Hall this weekend together, who could have written a better script?
"That's like saying Michael Jordan and Larry Bird going into the NBA Hall-of-Fame at the same time. It's not going to happen, because they all come in at different points in time. So for me to come into (the NFL) in 1990 and finish up in 2005, and Jerry to come in five years prior to that and finish up in 2005 ... I mean, the odds are against us that we even played that long, let alone for us to accomplish what we've been able to accomplish in our respective sports."
CAN YOU BELIEVE RANDLE IS SPEECHLESS?
It's hard to believe that one of the biggest trash-talkers in NFL history finds himself without a whole lot to say these days.
Former Vikings defensive tackle John Randle, who had a non-stop dialogue going into every game, is overwhelmed by the whole experience of going from his hometown of Hearne, Texas, to football immortality.
"I just try to take it in slowly," Randle said. "I try to take a couple of steps back, relax, take a deep breath ... It's been very emotional at times and sometimes overwhelming, but I'm just loving it. It's unbelievable.
"I'm ... I'm ... speechless."