The telephone rang on the second day of the NFL draft a little bit earlier than Steven Means anticipated.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive end wasn't highly recruited coming out of high school and didn't receive an invitation to the NFL combine following a standout college at Buffalo either.
So when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers called in the fifth round last month, Means understandably was thrilled and surprised.
The Bucs believe they selected a player who has a chance to develop into an effective pass rusher.
Means thinks so, too.
"I didn't know if I was going to be drafted ... Some teams were talking to me about signing me as a free agent," Means, the 147th overall pick, said..
"I've always had that tough road to go through. I've always had to sneak through the back door," he added. "It wasn't alarming for me to not go to the combine because I've been going through this my whole life."
Means impressed the Bucs during Buffalo's pro day in Orchard Park, N.Y., then performed during a personal workout for the team.
Although some NFL scouts projected him as a linebacker, Tampa Bay intends to give Means an opportunity to earn playing time as a defensive end.
Through rookie minicamp and the start of voluntary workouts known as organized team activities, coach Greg Schiano likes what he's seen.
"Steven has been impressive in his time here so far. He's in good physical condition. He's got a lot of great physical traits, and he's very eager and hungry to learn the system and to work at it," Schiano said. "He's a guy who does extra. If he can continue to keep that mindset, he's got a chance to be good."
Means was a second-team All-Mid-American Conference selection as a senior, when he was credited with making 77 tackles, including 11 for losses. He had 6 1-2 sacks last season, finishing his career at Buffalo with 18 1-2 sacks -- the fourth-highest total in school history -- and 29 1-2 tackles for loss overall.
Despite not being asked to participate in the NFL combine, Means said just hearing from teams that said they might be interested in bringing him into camp was enough to keep him encouraged.
Now that he has an opportunity, he's determined to make the most of it. Defense, special teams -- he just wants to contribute.
"I'm willing to do whatever I have to do," Means said.
Tampa Bay had the NFL's worst pass defense a year ago, and a sagging pass rush was part of the problem. The team drafted cornerback Johnthan Banks and acquired veterans Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson to help shore up the secondary, while Means and fourth-round selection Akeem Spence have been brought in to help out on the defensive line.
Means is confident he has the skills, work ethic and temperament to be a successful pro, noting there's some nastiness to his game.
"I came up in an environment where it's not easy. I don't like anybody touching me, and that's probably why I'm a decent pass rusher," the rookie said.
"I don't like offensive linemen, especially, touching me," Means added. "So I want to get them off me as quick as possible. ... I'm definitely quick-tempered on the field. I get mad at someone just lining up across from me thinking they can block me."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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