When an unlucky break happened in his life, Greg Covington made the most of the situation.
Now, the former Hickory High product has emerged as a leader for the Catawba County Hornets semi-pro football team.
Covington had a standout career with the Red Tornadoes. He is in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) record books twice for returning two interceptions for touchdowns against Maiden on Sept. 23, 2005 and also finishing that season with three picks returned for scores.
After his prep career at Hickory High came to an end, Covington embarked on a journey to play football at Lenoir-Rhyne.
However, after breaking his leg as a wide receiver in one-on-one drills, Covington’s dream of playing at the collegiate level came to an end.
While he was injured, a chance meeting at a barber shop landed Covington on the Hornets semi-pro football team.
“After I broke my leg my freshman year at Lenoir-Rhyne, my opportunities started to dwindle when it came to college football,” Covington said. “Long story short, I met a guy named Dushun Martin who played for the Washington Redskins. He played for the Hornets. I was getting my hair cut, and he asked me if I wanted to play some football. I had just broken my leg. I said ‘yea,’ and he said he would get me on the team.”
Covington missed most of Catawba County’s games, but debuted for the team mid-way through the season initially as a running back.
By his second season, Covington was playing cornerback, and the Hornets were in the playoffs and a win away from the championship game.
“We came out the next year and were put out in the first round of the playoffs,” he said. “I’ve watched this team get better and better. We are starting to communicate better. I was on this team when we had veterans that were hard to coach. Now, we’ve gotten younger. We used to have 6-7 players at practice. Now, we’re pushing 20-plus. I love it.”
While on the football field, Covington earned the nickname ‘flea’ for his feisty play.
“When I first came out here, people noticed I’m a small guy,” he said. “I’m 5-foot-6 and 155 to 160 pounds. The receiver I just guarded last week was every bit of 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. He didn’t catch one pass. That’s where I got my nickname. I do everything above my size and ability. That’s why the name came into effect. I play bigger than I am.”
Frye said Covington may be small in stature, but he plays big when his teammates need him to.
“He is just like David against Goliath,” said Hornets coach and owner Doug Frye of Covington. “He’ll bring down a giant. Size doesn’t bother him. He is one of the top three defensive backs in the league and has been for the five years he has been playing for us.”
Now in his fifth season as the second-longest tenured player, Covington has remained a mainstay with the Hornets organization and his absence is rarely felt.
“He is dedicated,” Frye said. “He comes to every practice. If he misses a practice, I have to call and find out why because that is unusual. Those are three qualities that stand out. The energy he brings, you feed off of him and the way he gets excited and fired up. Plus, he is a good talent.”
Covington is known for his energetic outbursts on the field against opponents and to fellow teammates.
“My mindset is just getting everyone fired up,” he said. “I know it takes one person and one energy. If everyone can feed off of my energy and get everyone on that same page, that’s what I love to do.”
Frye believes Covington’s passion for and knowledge of the game makes him a leader.
“He is energetic,” Frye said. “‘Flea’ describes him. He is full of energy all of the time. That is energy he brings to the team. He has a good knowledge of the secondary and coverages. He is one of the top corners in the league.”
Just like he was invited to play for the Hornets, Covington hopes to bring in more talent to help Catawba County win a league championship.
“I try to be a recruiter,” he said. “I get on the websites and really try to find players from area schools. Most of the players out here I’ve actually helped bring in and mold this team. I take pride in it ... I feel like we have the best everything. Our quarterback is coming along to be the best in the league. Our receiving corps is the best. We have the best receiver in DeMario Garvin. We have the best running back and the best overall defense.”
Off of the playing field, Covington is dedicating his time to the community and trying to give back.
“I’m about to start some coaching with the Newton Wolverines (youth football) team this year on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursday,” he said. “I want to give back. That’s my mindset. I’m no NFL player or not famous, but I’m a semi-pro football player. I want to help kids.”
Covington plans to attend community college and try to transfer to a four-year college of university to pursue a degree. He is hoping his story will help motivate other players to do the same and use their football skills to better themselves.
“There are opportunities in this league,” he said. “You’ve just got to put yourself out there to get what you want out of it.”