LOWER AFTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – Like many individuals in Northeast Tennessee, Black Knight senior Rio Little grew up in a football family.

“Whenever I was younger I remember going to watch my brother play football – my dad played football,” he said.

But, for Little, the energy and excitement of making a big play is what kept him coming back to the gridiron time and again.

“I love the adrenaline in my veins whenever I catch a touchdown pass, return an interception for long distance or just making big plays and hearing the crowd cheer my name,” he explained. “It gives me a sense of happiness.”

There was plenty about which to be happy in Lower Afton this past fall. The Black Knights finished with a record of 10-2 – winning a 3A-Region 1 championship. The team also won its first state playoff game, against Austin East, since 2011.

“We had the number one scoring offense in 3A, so every game we scored a lot of touchdowns – so we had a lot of celebrating to do,” Little recalled. “That was probably one of the best parts.”

Also near the top of the list of things Little will remember about the season – the brotherhood built and shared by the senior class over the years.

“All of us have been playing since sixth grade – maybe one or two kids left – but all the seniors … kept at it,” he said. “Whenever we were younger we said we wanted to do something big and we were finally able to.”

While Little’s high school football career has come to a close, he’ll have the chance at one more Senior Day this spring, as a member of the soccer team.

“I’m looking forward to practicing and seeing how the guys are because we have a very good group and we have a bunch of young guys in,” he said.

While football and soccer may seem like polar opposites sports, Little believes they have more in common than people realize and that the skills are transferable.

“I play soccer in the spring and I think it gives me an advantage in football because I’m quicker side to side than a lot of other kids are,” he said. “I think that in soccer – I play defender, so I think my physicality in football helps me able to control my body more whenever I’m going into a tackle in soccer.”

When Little isn’t in class or working on his game, he is often finishing his online work as a dually-enrolled student at ETSU.

“I’m a big nerd – I like math,” Little smiled. “So, pre-calculus is probably my favorite class.”

It’s a lot to keep straight, but Little manages well thanks to the lessons he’s learned on the field.

“It’s not about how you get knocked down, it’s how you get back up,” he said. “All those tacky sayings that are cliché – but they’re actually true.”

“A lot of that stuff, how you respond to adversity in football will show you how your respond to adversity in the workplace or in real life or in the classroom.”