Brother’s Death Leaves Larry Little In Shock

By David J. Neal
Updated: March 21, 2005

Larry Little

MIAMI — Dolphins legend Larry Little wanted to make sure to say one thing about younger brother David.

”I’m proud of the career he had,” the NFL Hall of Famer said. “A lot of times when you have an older brother who had a career like I had, people always would try to compare the younger to the older.”

“He went on and did everything on his own. He had a great high school career, a great college career and a great NFL career. He didn’t let that deter him. And, he had to live with it all his life.”

That life ended Thursday. David Little, a 46-year-old former NFL linebacker out of Miami Jackson High and the University of Florida, died while working out alone in his Miami home.

According to his older brother, the autopsy revealed David Little to be healthy. But a heart arrhythmia while lifting allowed a barbell to fall across his neck, suffocating him. David was found by the oldest of his three children, 17-year-old Killian High football player David Little Jr.

Saturday, Larry Little’s deep voice rumbled in the keys of shock and mourning. He wasn’t sure when he would return to being head coach of the Miami Morays of the National Indoor Football League.

”I don’t know. Because there’s nothing I can do for him,” Little said. “I’m grieving. But I’ve got to do something. I can’t just sit around here and grieve. Like [Friday], all I did was walk around the house all day doing nothing because it was still hitting me.”


Before Thursday, Little was scheduled to be in the Meadowlands on Saturday, where the franchise had its inaugural game.

”I just felt with my mom, being her age, I needed to be here,” Larry said. “And I probably would’ve been like a zombie there anyway, thinking about her back here and I’m up there.”

The hardest thing for a parent to do is bury a child. Ida Little, in her mid-80s (she doesn’t want Larry telling her age), has now seen two of her three sons and four daughters die.

Larry Little’s oldest brother, George, died the day before a Dolphins scrimmage at the Orange Bowl in 1971. His father died the day after Little retired in 1980.

David’s 12-season career with the Pittsburgh Steelers began the following year.

”Being his size and playing point guard in high school tells people what kind of athlete he was,” Larry said. “I would tell people he was better than me because he played more than one sport. I didn’t do nothing but play football. I tried to throw the shot put and couldn’t do that.”

Their age gap — Larry is 59 — defined their relationship early in David’s life.

”It was more like a father and son thing because our ages were so far apart,” Larry said. “The older he got, the more we became like brothers.”


David never let the pressures of having a star athlete older brother crush him as it has others. Sort of remarkable when you consider Larry Little’s presence was considerable — he was a hometown guy starring for a pro sports team that the locals canonized en masse.

”I don’t know how he dealt with it because David was not a very talkative person,” Larry said. “He did not open up to a lot of people. He didn’t open up to me a lot of times.”

That was just David Little’s way, his brother said. They were opposites — David was quiet, low key, and Larry was more outgoing. Larry says he never saw David angry.

”The last I talked to him was three weeks ago,” Larry said.

“But there was deep love there. Me for him and him for me.”