Originally created 08/28/99

Heat look to keep perfect record



As he snuck around the blind side, defensive end Charles Little christened the Augusta Heat's inaugural season with a sack of Destrahan quarterback Chris Mason on the first play from the line of scrimmage.

That play turned out to be a precursor for a Heat defense that has allowed just 18 points in four games this season. Augusta (4-0) returns to action tonight when it hosts the Charlotte Stallions at 7 p.m at Evans High's Blanchard Stadium.

"He felt some pressure and he rolled out," said Little, of his sack. "He didn't expect me to be right there. He just ran right into me. Sometimes it happens that easy."

Things, however, aren't so easy right now for Little, who suffered a tear in his medial collateral ligament in a team scrimmage two weeks ago and is questionable for tonight's game.

"Right now my leg is 70 percent," he said on Wednesday. "If I'm not feeling stronger by (today) then I'm not going to force it. I'll definitely be back."

The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Little, who has three sacks and four tackles this season, has constantly gotten stronger since he first joined Tulsa University as a 205-pound defensive end. Little, though, originally planned on attending Oklahoma State where his dad was a two-time All-American. However, the Cowboys were on probation, scholarships were limited and Little became a football casualty.

So a Hail-Mary offer from Tulsa fell into Little's lap. But he lost focus and soon failed out of school.

"I went in there with a bad attitude not realizing how much of a good thing I had there," he said. "It was a good situation for me because I had a full scholarship, meals paid for, the whole nine. I didn't realize how good that was until I ended up flunking out of school and not having nothing."

After a two-year college hiatus, Little regrouped and walked on at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in 1994. Failing to originally make the depth chart, he found himself starting the next year and leading the team in sacks.

"I knew if I could make it there, I still had the ability," he said.

Little wanted to transfer back to a NCAA Division I school. Time, though, was not on his side as his NCAA eligibility had run out.

"I didn't know what I was going to do," he said.

So as fate would have it, Little received a call from the Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers. But contract negotiations didn't work out, and Little's football roller coaster had bottomed out.

Then, the phone rang once again as Nebraska's Hastings College offered Little a scholarship.

"I had never heard of Hastings before, but I said, `Yeah, I'll be there,"' he said. "At the time, I assumed it was a Division II school, but it turned out that it was a NAIA school. But I didn't really care. It was like a desperation move for me because I didn't know where I was going to play."

He played there from 1996-97 and sat out last year. He had some NFL looks, and the Seattle Seahawks stayed in touch with him until draft day. But on selection day, Little's phone didn't ring.

"They ended signing a whole bunch of players," he said. "They got a hold of free-agent players and they drafted some guys. All of a sudden they didn't want me. I sat thinking someone would call, but no one called."

So Little decided to turn his life around and got baptized on July 6, 1998.

"One of the things I've learned is God is God," he said. "He has more power than this whole world. I need to focus on the things I can change. I need to stay focused on the positive things and look for the good in people."

NOTES: Heat wide receiver Mike Holaren has left the team to rehab a partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Holaren, who injured the knee two weeks ago, hopes to be back for the playoffs in October.

Chris Gay can be reached at (706) 868-1222 ext. 114 or cag112@hotmail.com.