Ear Hustle

Matt Little 2015 Player To Watch

We love to spotlight young people doing their thing!! EarHustle411 loves the kids. Matt Little of Evanston, IL is 2015’s player to keep your eyes on. He’s got that football thing on lock and we wish him all the best as he goes forward on his journey.

Congratulations Matt Little!!

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Matt Little always had someone to follow.

He followed his cousin, Lorenzo Stephens, who was Evanston’s quarterback in the late 1990s, just before Matt started playing Pop Warner football. Matt’s older brother, Chris, was the second member of the family to quarterback the Wildkits and will compete for the starting job at South Dakota State this fall. Quite literally, Matt followed Chris under center.

And then there was his grandfather, White Sox legend Minnie Minoso, whose trailblazing career was a beacon for hundreds of black and Latino baseball players with Major League aspirations. Little followed his example, too.
With two quarterbacks and a baseball icon in the family, football was rarely hard for Little until his sophomore season. In that season’s opener, he suffered a punctured lung and a bruised kidney. He missed six games — while big brother Chris led the varsity Wildkits to the playoffs — but learned a valuable lesson from another man whose path to stardom was far from smooth.

“(Minoso) told me to be patient and keep working hard, because he went through adversity just like I was going through adversity,” Little said. “He would always tell me, ‘You can’t control what the coaches are going to say. You have to just go out there and execute, and at the end of the day, the coaches are going to find you’re the better player.’ “

Little earned the varsity job as a junior, but the struggles were far from over. Evanston had a young team and was reeling from the loss of defensive coordinator Steve King, who died suddenly in June 2014.

Minoso’s death in March — which, like King’s, came without warning — was the latest blow. But if the last year has taught Little anything, it’s that one can only be a follower for so long.
“As a leader, as a quarterback of the team, (Minoso) told me, ‘Everyone’s going to look at you at the end of the day. If you’re having a bad day, the whole team’s going to have that attitude and that environment’s going to go bad,’ “ Little said. “If the guys that look up to us, if we act like leaders, that’s going to bring more intensity to practices, which will end up as a good season.”

At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Little had the body of a Division I quarterback before he took a single varsity snap. Coaches were visiting campus to see prized defensive end Naquan Jones, but took notice of Evanston’s other promising prospect.

Little boasted a big arm but lacked the mobility of a true dual-threat quarterback. The occasional deep ball created room for screen passes, though working through his progressions is a work in progress. Little compared his playing style to Tampa Bay rookie Jameis Winston.

“He thinks he’s Cam Newton,” offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Healy said wryly. “Maybe arm strength and size, but running ability? We’re not there yet. Maybe a bit like (Ben) Roethlisberger or Byron Leftwich.”

Western Michigan offered first, and Little committed Nov. 17 to become the first member of the Broncos’ 2016 recruiting class. Little will graduate this winter and enroll in time for spring practice in Kalamazoo.

At least one Big Ten school planned to offer Little if he rescinpded his commitment, but Little is more than satisfied with his choice.

“I visited a bunch of schools, actually, with my brother,” he said. “Obviously, Western Michigan’s not a Big Ten or SEC school, but I just had that kind of feeling like they’re trying to do something different here. They’re on the uprise, and I just wanted to be a part of that.”

The next few months will test how much Little has learned from those who have come before him. Healy said Little is much more laid back than Chris, a quarterback who sometimes took failure personally. Matt almost never lets poor play mentally linger.

Evanston needs a fresh start, and the Wildkits have a quarterback they’re ready to follow.

“Matt’s by far one of the most talented quarterbacks that I’ve coached,” said Evanston head coach Mike Burzawa, the offensive coordinator for all seven of Addison Driscoll’s state titles from 2001-07. “He’s really worked on his mobility in the pocket and had a good offseason in terms of speed and agility. It’s going to make a difference for him.”

Matt Little

School: Evanston

Class: Senior

Height/weight: 6-4, 210

Position: QB

College: Western Michigan

Source: Chicago Tribune

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