Ask any football player why the sport is important to them and a variety of answers will be given. Almost all football players, however, eventually list one characteristic of the sport that binds them together.
Being a part of a team.
It’s that feeling of camaraderie and loyalty to one another that has hooked Brookstone rising freshman Jack Little on the sport of football. He has been playing baseball since, well, for almost as long as he can remember. But for Little, 14, being a part of a football team is just different, especially at Brookstone.
“The main thing I like is probably the teammates. They’re not just a person on the team or even a teammate. They really get adapted to you and you form a bond with each other. In football, you could say you are closer, because you rely on each other more. You kind of turn into your own family,” says Little.
Speaking of family, Little might have a genetic link to playing football. His father, John Little, played at the University of Georgia, where he was a starting roverback for three seasons, beginning in 1984. Little was named to the Southeastern Conference Football Legends Class in 2014.
While the son of the former Bulldog has grown up hearing about his father’s athletic talent, Jack Little’s mom, Toncy, said her husband was always cautious about pushing their sons toward any sport, much less football.
That could be one reason the Brookstone student waited until the seventh grade before really giving any thought to playing football. The 5’11” and 137-pound athlete focused on baseball up until middle school. The decision to try out for the Brookstone team was two-fold.
“Well, my dad played for Georgia so I kind of felt like I needed to. It seemed interesting. And, most everybody in the grade (was playing),” he says, smiling.
Little may have an impressive family tree when it comes to football, but he is clearly making his own way in the sport. Since he stepped onto the gridiron, Little has been playing mostly in the position of wide receiver, with some play time as a cornerback. His father was a roverback, which although not a position much heard of any more, was sort of a cross between a linebacker and a defensive back.
In the seventh grade, Little didn’t see much time on the field. Last year, he was a starter at wide receiver but laments the team was not a passing team; therefore he didn’t have a lot of catches. But there was this one play Little remembers well.
“I only caught one pass and had one touchdown. It was on that pass. It wasn’t even thrown by the quarterback,” he says, laughing.
The last two seasons, Little has chalked up to learning experiences. He is looking forward to this freshman year and new opportunities to advance with the sport. He sees his strengths in football as his running game and ability to catch. Some of that same talent must translate to the baseball field for Little, too.
Usually, Little can be found in one of two positions on the baseball field. He prefers shortstop but has spent a good bit of time in left field. Catching and running seem to be his forte in both sports. He missed an opportunity to play this past spring for Brookstone since there were not enough eighth-graders to field a team. Part of his plan for his freshman year includes trying out for the junior varsity baseball team. He shouldn’t have too much of a problem since he played summer ball for the Cougars prior to the start of school.
Little has an engaging nature and always seems to be smiling or quick to laugh. Behind that easy-going demeanor is an analytical mind that is able to process advanced mathematics and read a defense on the football field. Being basically an “A” student and having a newfound passion for football, Little hopes this year to use his intellect to master higher mathematic classes and become more proficient in the technical aspects of the game.
His plans beyond ninth grade aren’t clear yet. He does know he is looking forward to playing football throughout high school. Already, he has learned he values being a part of the Brookstone athletic program, and not just for the chance to play a sport.
“The coaches are serious about academics. If you need extra help in something, and it causes you to be late to practice, there is no penalty for that. It’s about academics first; then athletics,” Little says.
In Little’s perspective, the coaches are as much a part of the team as the individual players. For him, it just affirms that the team is like a family, where everyone has a role and looks out for one another.
“There are 3 main football values (at Brookstone). Character of the individual, academics and how the coaches develop athletic abilities,” Little says.
Columbus Valley/Freshman Focus/August 2015
By Beth Welch
Photos by Jerry Christenson