Heading into a scouting combine in Indianapolis last January, Griffin Little thought the worst was behind him.
In Week 9 last season against South Side, Little, a wide receiver for Homestead, pulled his posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). While not serious enough to sideline him, it did affect his play at times, particularly when getting in and out of routes.
Of course, Snider may have a different opinion after the junior went for 113 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the sectional championship game.
Following the 49-35 loss to Snider, Little focused on rehabbing the PCL and getting healthy for the all-important camp circuit.
That brings us to Jan. 20 in Indy.
“I was running a curl route and on the plant (my knee) just popped,” Little reminisces. “I went to the trainer at the showcase and I could feel that it was completely disconnected.”
The diagnosis was a complete ACL tear and meniscus. Just days after feeling he was completely over his PCL injury, Little had a bigger hurdle to overcome.
“When the trainer pulled on my leg and I felt the injury, I was just overcome with emotion,” said Little. “It was an emotional ride from the beginning. I kept saying out loud, ‘I am never going to play football again.'”
At around 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Little is not a highly-rated wide receiver recruit. His college future does not revolve around the Alabamas and Notre Dames, but rather the Ball States and Western Michigans. A serious injury entering the spring and summer of your senior year is almost a death knell for recruiting.
At the time of the injury, Little did not have a single scholarship offer. That despite leading the Spartans last season in receptions (53), receiving yards (926) and receiving touchdowns (10).
The injury, he initially thought, ruined any chance he had of playing Division I football.
On Feb. 8, Little had surgery on his left knee and was back in therapy one day later. He was actually able to walk gingerly even before going under the knife.
The junior had gone from self-pity to self-confidence.
“Once I started seeing improvement in therapy and was able to walk, I really started to turn around,” Little said. “Athletes my age have a greater recovery rate from this type of injury. Once I started seeing results, I bought in.”
Other aspects of recovery also came into play. The field of sports psychology continues to grow in popularity. From prep athletes to professionals, psychologists are helping people overcome the mental aspect of sports – from returning from an injury to solving confidence issues.
As his confidence grew and recovery continued, the interest from colleges returned. Shortly after his surgery, Air Force was the first to offer a scholarship. Then Bowling Green stepped up, telling Little it “didn’t care” about his injury, only that he fit what the Falcons wanted in a wideout.
“At first when I told schools about the injury, recruiting slowed down,” Little said. “Getting that first ‘major’ offer from Bowling Green and how they told me that they loved my film really helped me mentally.”
Little gained confidence with every day of therapy and rehabs. Days became weeks, and weeks became months. Now more than four months out from surgery, the Homestead senior is running routes and cutting. He is not 100 percent yet, but hopes to be for Homestead’s season opener at Northrop on Aug. 23, if not before.
Still, a certain amount of mental trepidation remains. As is always the case when coming back from a serious injury, Little will have some apprehension when he goes full-go for the first time in a game situation.
So how will he handle that concern?
“In meeting with a sports psychologist, I have learned to envision a play when my knee was fine and focus on that,” Little said. “That play is the first offensive play against Snider in the sectional championship game when I scored a touchdown. I will visualize that a lot heading into the season.”
One thing Little does not have to worry about is where he will be playing college football. In late May, he committed to Bowling Green, one of the programs that returned to the recruiting scene soon after his injury.
“I feel like this whole thing has made me grow and learn the mental aspect of the game,” Little said. “Once I can touch the field on a Friday night, it is going to make me so excited.”