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Carolina Panthers

Looking for a Little redemption


Last July, NCAA investigators visited the University of North Carolina campus to question a couple of football players about possible dealings with a sports agent.

Days later, their targets became public knowledge: wide receiver Greg Little and defensive tackle Marvin Austin.

"It was tough to know that essentially I started the whole investigation," Little said. "It was something that will haunt me forever, to know that my team could have won the national championship had I played along with them."

Little, who eventually was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for accepting nearly $5,000 in agent benefits, wasn't alone. All told, 14 Tar Heels missed some if not all of the 2010 season for either receiving improper benefits or academic improprieties.

Now Little, seeking a second chance in the NFL, is tackling his troubles head-on.

"Without saying this the wrong way, I think it was one of the best things that ever happened to me in my life," he said. "It was a very pivotal point and a defining moment in my life where I said, 'Hey, this is not who you are. This is something that you've done. You've made a mistake, but you have to move on.'

"That's what I'm doing. This has definitely been a great start to my path of redemption. I'm just out to prove that even though we make mistakes, you can still progress and go through."

In addition to having to prove to NFL teams that his costly mistake is the kind of thing he won't repeat, Little is working to show that his season of sitting didn't negatively impact his skill set.

It's a unique skill set to be sure. Little entered UNC as a wide receiver but was the Tar Heels' featured running back and even played a little quarterback as a freshman. He switched back to receiver because of injuries midway through the 2008 season, and in 2009 he at last played receiver all the time, hauling in 62 passes for 724 yards and five touchdowns.

"I'm very confident in my ability," Little said. "My whole career I've never played the same position twice consecutively, so I think I have very raw talent.

"In any system in the NFL, I feel like I'll be very productive because I'm a diligent worker. It's something that I'm very passionate about."

At the recent NFL Scouting Combine, Little looked like he could add tight end to his credits, weighing 231 pounds and leading all receivers with 27 reps in the 225-pound bench press.

During his suspension, Little started training with a mixed martial arts fighter.

"I stayed in school, finished out the remainder of the semester, and I trained in Durham (N.C.) back at my high school with an MMA fighter," Little said. "It was the most unorthodox training that I've ever done, but it also put me in the best shape of my life."

Only time will tell where Little is drafted, but there's little doubt that he brings an interesting mix of athleticism and determination to the table along with his now-checkered past.

"You can never study enough film. You can never catch enough balls," Little said. "Sometimes when you feel pressure, it's because it's something that maybe you're not prepared for. But I spent the time that I was suspended working very hard and tried to push myself because I knew I was starting behind the ball, so to speak. I was very hard on myself."


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