He stands 6’3″ and weighs 220 pounds, but he has become largely invisible.
While much chatter prior to this year’s NFL draft has centered around the renewed dedication of Marvin Austin and the tremendous pass-rushing potential of Robert Quinn, there has been nothing more than a whisper in regards to their former teammate, Greg Little.
Before the black cloud of NCAA sanctions, suspensions and dismissals fell over the North Carolina football team, Greg Little was regarded as an influential piece of their championship hopeful team. Although they hung their hat on defense, Little had been a force at wide receiver. He displayed soft hands, punishing blocking ability and unparalleled run after the catch skills while posting 727 yards and five TDs in his junior campaign.
When the ruling came down in October that Little, Quinn and Austin would no longer suit up for the Tar Heels, the Durham, North Carolina native seemed to fall off the face of the earth. Even as his teammates began to be resurrected amidst the talk of workouts and draft projections, Little’s name remained far from everybody’s lips.
The only question is why.
Little’s talent is no secret. Watch one YouTube compilation of his junior season and you’ll see why he earned the nickname “Freak.” A former running back, Little has change-of-pace ability that is uncommon in wide receivers over six feet tall. His shiftiness is matched with physicality and a nasty streak. During a game against NC State last season, he drove CB Jarvis Byrd ten yards off the ball while blocking on an end-around before planting him into the turf, subsequently forcing him to be carried off of the field.
Little has talent when the ball is in the air as well. He has ability to find the holes in the secondary and he uses his hands well, rarely trapping a pass against his body. Once in the air, he uses his body to keep defenders at bay as if he were grabbing a rebound and seems to always get full extension.
So how does a tall, physical, shifty wide receiver with good hands fail to get mentioned in draft talk?
It can’t be because of off field transgressions. Little had never been involved in off-field incidents before and has stayed out of trouble in the wake of his difficulties. When the misdeeds came to the surface, Little was the least significant culprit. Austin was dismissed from the team for having prior dealing with an agent, accepting unfair benefits and violating ethical conduct rules.
In an October 11th article in USA Today, Erick Smith claimed that Quinn was said to have received two black diamond watches, a pair of matching earrings, travel accommodations for a trip to Miami and other benefits totaling $5,642. Meanwhile, Little was determined to have received $4,952 in extra benefits, including diamond earrings, as well as travel accommodations for the Bahamas and Washington D.C. Both were ruled permanently ineligible for receiving benefits, but were not removed from the team.
Last season, Syracuse WR Mike Williams walked out on his teammates, leaving the team completely, yet analysts still continued to praise his on-field skills, claiming that if he ever got his head together, he could be a star. At 6’2″ 205 pounds, Williams never had Little’s physicality or post-catch skills and had an even longer list of off-field problems.
Since October, Little has released a public apology condemning his actions, and has remained active in the community. However, he wasn’t chosen to participate in any of the post-season All-Star games, unlike Marvin Austin, a fellow senior who was chosen to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl.
His first opportunity to get back on the football field in a competitive environment will be in Indianapolis at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine.
When that day comes, we might all have a hard time forgetting Greg Little again.