By Brian Paglia
Sometime after the first drive, Georgia State quarterback Drew Little found the familiar rhythm of football in the midst of 30,000 raucous fans at the Georgia Dome, in the midst of walking straight into the unknown, in the midst of making history.
Before then, he was swallowed by the moment.
By the environment, for the largest crowd he had played in front of was 8-10,000 fans at Peach County High School.
By the expectations, for Georgia State football had just as many detractors as it did believers.
By the history, for Georgia State had never had a quarterback before. Little became the first.
In the Panthers' historical 41-7 victory over Shorter last Thursday, the former Henry County quarterback was efficient and poised, throwing for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 13 of 17 passing. His play belied the enormity of the moment, even thought he was aware of it.
"Obviously, when I went out on that first drive trying to check and there's 30,000 fans, I started getting a little nervous," Little said. "I had a little nerves that first drive, but after that you're just back to 100 yards of green grass playing football."
Others were nervous for Little, specifically his mother, Kelly Robertson, and stepfather, Rex, who were in attendance Thursday.
"We were uptight," said Rex Robertson, who is also Henry County offensive coordinator. "We were nervous for him. That was the biggest crowd he'd ever played in front of, but he handled it well."
Henry County's most successful run in school history coincided with Little's arrival. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound quarterback finished his high school career second in state history in career passing yards (8,427); fourth in passing yards in a game (514); and tied for sixth in career touchdowns (80). Little was at the helm of two region championship teams and the first teams in school history to make the state playoffs and win a state playoff game.
But it had been two years since Little played an official game. He redshirted along with the rest of Georgia State's first recruiting class, practiced and waited. He endured two years of quarterback competition, including the much-hyped transfer of Alabama quarterback Star Jackson, the No. 5-ranked quarterback in the nation according to Rivals.com coming out of high school.
Yet, it was Little who threw the first touchdown in Georgia State history. Little faked a handoff to running back Paris Lee, rolled right and threw to Emmanuel Ogbuehi for an 8-yard touchdown. He later added a 16-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
"What I liked about our performance was the win," Little said. "Personally, I could've done a few things better. I floated a ball I shouldn't have floated. I let one (throw) slip away from me on the first drive.
So, I'm trying to clean those things up this week at practice and not make those simple mistakes."
Indeed, Little's focus has turned squarely to the Panthers next opponent, Lambuth, to the next time Georgia State enters the Georgia Dome.
By then, the history of the Panthers' journey this season will have worn off.
But, Little will always be a part of it.
"We're very proud of him for earning that first start," Robertson said. "They'll never be able to take that away from him."