When he decided to play football at Alabama State, he had a chance to refine his cooking skills often.
"The guys on Friday would have a quick practice and then want to barbecue," Little said. "They would say, 'Big Lunch (Little's nickname), why don't you barbecue for us?' They had no idea I could barbecue when we started, but once they found out, I did about all the cooking.
"If we had a home game, we would chip in two or three dollars apiece after the Friday practice. One of our boosters owned a big meat company and we only paid half price for beef. Instead of going to the cafeteria to eat, we would grill out and have a good time.
"The skills just perfected themselves. Every once in a while I would learn something new. Seasoning is the key. Making sure that you put (on) the right seasoning, and right timing for different foods is something I had to learn. Once I did, it was easy. Now when I barbecue, I will have up to five kinds of meats on the grill and all of them have to cook at varied temperatures. The timing has to be right or you will mess it up."
He's basically a one-man operation even when he cooks for big crowds like he did at the state track meet, when the aroma from his grill had officials looking at their watches and hurrying to finish so they could sample his treats.
"I like to be in charge myself. There are a lot of things that go into cooking the right way. I went to the health department for workshops and made sure I learned the proper cleaning and the right utensils to use so that I didn't do anything wrong," Little said.
"When you feed as many people as I do at times, you have no margin for error."
Little also takes pride in how he utilizes his charcoal. At the track meet, he used only 18 pounds of charcoal for the 150 pounds of meat.
"You just have to know how to keep it hot and make use of it at the right time," Little chuckled and said.
He won't give away many secrets other than to say he blends his own seasoning by drying herbs at his home in Lexington and then "grinding them up when I really want to make something special."
Little also doesn't believe in using a lot of barbecue sauce on his meats. He often provides it only because some people think they have to have it.
"If you have good barbecue, you don't need sauce. Sometimes I have a recipe where I use a little brown sugar with a dry rub and with some spices in it. That completely takes away the need for having barbecue sauce, especially when you smoke it with a little hickory wood," he said.
Little won't reveal his age. "I am 26 going on another 26," he laughed and said. His wife recently gave birth to an 8-pound girl and Little has done some extra cooking while she has been off her feet.
"I prefer to cook salmon over anything else. My wife loves that. I can get it shipped to Lexington. Then I will filet it myself, season it and put it on the grill. It is delicious," he said.
Don't look for Little to start his own cooking business even though he has won contests in Memphis and Lexington.
"I just enjoy it. It's not a money thing. You know how some people love drawing or writing. I love cooking, especially on my grill," he said.
"I couldn't do this as a business. When I see someone enjoying what I cooked, that's more than enough pay for me."
Seasoned Beef Tenderloin or Salmon
4 beef tenderloin steaks or 4 salmon steaks (about 1-inch thick)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 sliced onion
1 pinch of sea salt on each steak
1 teaspoon dried chives
1 sliced green pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1. Combine herbs, sea salt, green pepper and onion to both sides of each steak with open foil.
2. Grill directly over medium heat until they are cooked to your preference.
Seven minutes will be rare, nine minutes will be medium, and 11 minutes will be well done.
Turn once between minutes: Seven (3 1/2 minutes), Nine (4 1/2 minutes), 11 (5 1/2 minutes). For added flavor, mix 4 to 6 ounces of Heinz 57 steak sauce with 3 ounces of orange blossom honey. That's a quick and easy tangy sauce for ribs, too.