Waiting on his moment
Former Bull Steven Means awaits opportunity to perform on professional stage
Published: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 22, 2013 22:09
Steven Means began his career at UB in 2008, as a 6-foot-3, 220-pound defensive end – an 18-year-old physical freak. In April 2013, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Means in the fifth round of the NFL Draft.
Now, measuring in at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, Means awaits his opportunity to make an impact for the Bucs – just as he did for the Bulls the past four years.
“I’m in a bit of a learning process right now, but I’m playing a role that I need to play on the team,” Means said. “I’m doing everything the coaches need me to do at this point in time, and when my name is called, I’ll be ready.”
Means didn’t take the field in the Bucs’ first two games of the season – he currently sits as the No. 3 defensive end on their depth chart – but that hasn’t deterred him.
In his first three seasons at UB, Means totaled 12 sacks and 21 tackles for loss, in addition to just 33 total tackles in his junior year. He flipped the switch his senior year, amassing 6.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss and 77 tackles – creating buzz as a legitimate NFL prospect.
In addition to Means’ late emergence on the gridiron, his time off it – redshirting as a freshman back in 2008 – was just as critical in his development into an NFL player.
“In many ways, [redshirting] was the best thing for me to go through that transition because I’ve never sat out before in my life,” Means said. “I could look at that in one of two ways, but I chose to look at it as a developmental stage and as a process in which I can use that time to get better. And I did.”
Means has taken that same mentality with him to Tampa Bay. Unlike his time on the sidelines at Buffalo, he has to be constantly prepared.
“I’ve got to prepare like I am that guy, I am that starter and I am going to play in the game,” Means said. “Just in case something happens and my name is called, I’ve got to be ready, so that’s the only difference.”
An injury to any of the players in front of him would mean instant playing time for the UB alum.
Means isn’t the only former Bull occupying the defensive front for the Buccaneers. 2008 UB graduate Trevor Scott is currently the No. 2 defensive end on the depth chart for the Bucs – one spot in front of Means.
Scott was a sixth-round pick in 2008 by the Oakland Raiders. Through six years in the NFL, he has compiled 86 tackles and 16.5 sacks.
Means says he didn’t know Scott personally, but during his time at UB, he was frequently compared to the former first-team All-Mid-American Conference player.
The Buccaneers are 0-3 so far this season, but the defense has looked imposing, giving up 17 points per game and allowing just 16 points to an explosive Saints offense in Week Two. While Means waits his turn to see some action, he has been taking in as much as he can from his teammates.
When asked who has been the biggest help to him thus far, Means couldn’t single out one person.
“It’s funny, everywhere I’ve been, there’s been somebody that has stuck out more than everybody else,” Means said. “In this situation, it’s a lot of people and it’s almost all of the [veterans]. It’s a lot of guys who step up; they help all the young guys out and teach us all the motions, through the ropes.”
It’s a long way from Buffalo – Means’ hometown, where he was a three-sport star at local Grover Cleveland High School – to Tampa Bay, but that hasn’t stopped Means from cheering on his former coaches and teammates at UB. Means says he keeps in touch with a lot of the current Bulls and thinks it’s going to be a “real big year for UB, as long as they keep grinding … the sky is the limit.”
As the season goes on, Buffalo will be keeping an eye out for No. 96 down in Florida.