Steven Means, who played high school football at Grover Cleveland before moving on to UB, was drafted in the fifth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today. Means joins another former Harvard Cup star, Mike Williams, who played at Riverside. Williams was the first city high school graduate in many years to make it to the NFL.
Here's a column I wrote on Means before his sophomore season at UB in the summer of 2010.-
Means aims to prove point for city kids
18 August 2010
Oh, yes. Steven Means has been paying attention. He watches the daily reports from the NFL training camps, and he is keenly aware that a kid from a Buffalo city high school is making a splash as a rookie receiver in Tampa Bay.
"Mike Williams!" Means said Tuesday on Media Day at UB Stadium. "Right in the league. Right now! I played against him."
Means laughed at the memory, marveling at the raw athletic ability Williams displayed in his days at Riverside. Means, who played for Grover Cleveland, was exultant that a fellow city star had overcome the doubts and obstacles and actually made the big- time.
City football players are expected to fail, right? Williams had well-publicized issues at Syracuse and was drafted late as a result. Buffalo kids rarely even make it at the Division I level, which is why it's so important for Means to succeed as a player and student at UB.
"It's more important to me now than it ever was," said Means, a sophomore defensive end for the Bulls. "It's more important than anything. I'm not out here just representing myself. I'm out here representing my family, the whole city, Grover Cleveland, everybody. Even the young players in the Harvard Cup who get all the negative feedback saying they don't have a chance.
"I'm here to let everybody know that it can be done," said Means, who said he has a 2.7 GPA. "You've got to put in the work, including academics. But it can be done."
He got his chance and is making the most of it. Two years ago, when Means sat out as a true freshman, you heard tales of his exploits in practice. A year ago, Means had five sacks as a redshirt freshman. This year, he is one of the anchors on a UB defense that is looking to make waves in the Mid-American Conference.
Means is seen as an emerging force, one of the MAC's breakout players. He was a raw pass rusher when he arrived at UB. He's still learning the nuances of defensive line play. Means has a chance to become an all-MAC player. Who knows? Maybe he'll follow in the footsteps of Trevor Scott, a late-blooming defensive end who went from UB to the Raiders.
"It's all up to Steve," said Jappy Oliver, the Bulls' defensive line coach. "He doesn't really know how good he can be."
Oliver said Means relied on his sheer pass rushing ability in the past. It's no wonder. Head coach Jeff Quinn said Means can't be blocked by a single offensive lineman. It's other aspects of his game, like shedding blocks and defending the run, that needed polishing.
Means is listed at 6-4, 235 pounds (he was an interior force as a basketball player at Grover). But Oliver said Means has trouble maintaining his weight.
"He has the height to get much bigger and stronger," Oliver said, "and once he's able to do that, I think he'll be a big-time Division I football player."
Oliver coached at Notre Dame before coming to Buffalo, so he knows what a major college end looks like. Quinn said Means plays hard from the start of practice to the end. A few days ago, Means got into a scuffle at practice. Afterwards, he apologized to the team and was applauded by his teammates.
So the makings are there for a breakout. There's no telling how good the UB defense could be if he has double-digit sacks and creates matchup nightmares for MAC offenses.
"Oh, I hope so," Means said. "I see it as a year for our team to break out. I don't see it as an individual thing.
"I thought I was at my peak in high school. Then I got here and they taught me a lot more technique. I'm learning a lot more this year. So I have no clue where my peak is, and I'm going to keep striving to reach it."