Here's the story line for a feel-good Hollywood blockbuster: A football player goes undrafted and fails to make a roster as a college free agent, then is told "no" again and again and again as he tries to pursue his dream.
After spending a year out of the game, he runs into a scout at an airport, of all places, and strikes up a conversation. Remarkably, he is offered a tryout, and he blows away that scout by running a fast 40-yard time and is offered a contract.
Someone call Disney.
Except in the case of Means, it's a true story.
"I was with my girlfriend and we were going to Memphis and (Packers scout Alonzo Highsmith) was at the airport in Memphis," Means said. "When I looked back, I didn't recognize him but he was talking about Greg Jennings. I said, ‘You look familiar,' and he said, ‘You look familiar, too.' I said, ‘What's your name?' He said, ‘Alonzo.' So, he noticed that I got bigger and said, ‘Let me work you out.' I'd been calling him a lot and probably left him 15 messages but he had stopped answering my calls. He worked me out in Houston on Good Friday and I ran a 4.34. He told the GM and the coaches and they were interested because they knew me from college but I was too small then. They said I had a lot of dedication and motivation since I'd been out of football for a year and had gained weight but had gotten faster. I was pretty upset that I didn't run in the 4.2s but it was good enough to get their attention."
At the University of Houston, Means was a sporadic starter for all four seasons, starting 11 games and intercepting eight passes for his career. He was named MVP of the Eastham Energy All-Star Game with touchdowns on an interception, fumble return and blocked field goal, but went undrafted because he was considered too slight of build at 5-foot-10 and 177 pounds. He failed to stick after training camp with Buffalo and played a few games in the Canadian Football League. After that, it was one closed door after another. His athletic ability impressed scouts in the United Football League, Canadian Football League (4.27 40 with 39.5-inch vertical) and Arena Football League (4.31 40) but nobody offered a contract.
Means was frustrated but quitting was not an option. He had his belief in God on his side and strong support from his girlfriend, Natasha Means, and Ted Latimer. Natasha was his rock "spiritually and emotionally" and Latimer was there to make end's meet to help him through his training.
"I never considered it because this is what I do," he said. "I just knew that this was going to work out. I love the game so much. It was very hard to watch football and know I should be out there playing with those guys. I never gave up on my dream. I sacrificed so much — I sacrificed going out, I sacrificed spending time with my friends, I sacrificed going into my field. I've got a business degree from the University of Houston. So, I got a job to pay the bills but wanted to continue pursuing my dream. "
He got up at 5 a.m., worked from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., then headed home to get his workout clothes so he could run at a football field. Sometimes, an aspiring punter would kick balls to him. Other times, he'd have someone throw him the ball. Often, he'd do defensive back drills by himself. Then, it was off to a 24-Hour Fitness to lift weights.
It was all in hopes of being ready when opportunity finally knocked.
And it did, thanks to a chance meeting at an airport.
"I ran a 4.34 and (Highsmith) said, ‘You have to run again because that's too fast.'"
So, he did it again. And again. Highsmith called general manager Ted Thompson. And the rest is history, with Means, who's up to 187 pounds, excited to be heading to Green Bay this week.
"I'm still trying to get it in my head," Means said. "I know God works in mysterious ways and this is God's work. I'm going to tell you this Scripture: Mark 9:23 states, ‘Everything is possible for one who has faith.' That says it right there. I had my faith. I knew I was going to get there."
Needless to say, Means will be one hungry football player as he begins the long road toward a rags-to-riches spot on the roster. Now, he needs to write a happy ending to this amazing story.
"They have no idea. I see all the critics and I like reading it because they don't know who I am. They don't know me," Means said. "I was out of football for a whole year and I didn't take one day off. I was out there by myself running gassers. I was doing defensive back drills by myself. These people don't understand how I'm going to attack this. First one in and last one out, Bill. First in and last out because they gave me an opportunity. I've been waiting on this. There's no way in the world I'm not going to give it my all. They took a chance on me and I'm going to show them I appreciate it, and I'm going to show them my appreciation by being respectful, being prompt and giving the best of my ability."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.