The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 26, 2012

Former East standout Means ready to wrap stellar career at Air Force

By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer

AMBOY — For Alex Means, Christmas vacation has hardly been a time for holiday relaxation.

After wrapping up final exams at the Air Force Academy in Colorado last week, the Mankato native flew to a base in Biloxi, Miss., to see his fiancee and his 18-month-old son. From there, the family drove to visit relatives in Missouri. And on Christmas Eve, Means headed to Texas to prepare for the final game of his college football career.

“I’m blessed,” Means said.

On Saturday, Means, a senior outside linebacker, will lead Air Force onto the field for the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas. The Falcons will play Houston’s Rice University.

It’s the fourth straight bowl appearance for Air Force — one for every year of Means’ career.

“There are a lot of college teams that don’t get to play that one more game,” he said. “It’s a real fun experience. It’s special to share it with your teammates.”

Means has been a starter since his freshman year — although a foot injury kept him out of that first bowl and made him a backup for a portion of his sophomore year — but says he’s wrapping up his best season.

The second-team All-Mountain West Conference selection ranks second on the team and was ninth in the conference in tackles with 7.4 per game. He has two interceptions, including one he returned 56 yards for his first career touchdown against New Mexico, and nine pass breakups. Earlier this month, he was named Colorado’s defensive player of the year among a vote of representatives of the state’s 10 Division I programs.

The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Means also was selected to participate in the College All-Star Game, which will take place Jan. 19 in Montgomery, Ala.

“Being a senior, I’ve learned from the guys before me,” Means said. “And that’s what this school is for; it’s a leadership laboratory. That’s my role. ... I think I’ve stepped up to lead as best I can.”

After graduating from Mankato East High School in 2008, Means attended the Air Force Academy Preparatory School for a year to prepare for the academic and physical rigors of the Academy. He also played football for the prep school, which helped his transition..

A year later, Means became the first freshman to start a game on the Falcons defense since the 1981 season, and he’s helped Air Force to a 30-21 record over his career.

Means is set to graduate in late May and, a few days later, marry Perri Leake, the mother of his son, Dallas. Leake graduated from the Academy last spring and is a lieutenant stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi.

Leake’s parents took custody of Dallas while Leake finished school, since the Academy does not allow cadets to have dependents.

“Her mom and dad took a huge responsibility to help us out, more than we could ever thank them in a lifetime,” Means said. “(Leake and Dallas) are waiting for me to graduate. ... Everything will be back to normal the day I graduate.”

More blessings, Means said.

Like all cadets, Means will be commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant upon graduation, and he already has a future assignment. He’ll work as a graduate assistant coach for the Air Force football team.

While there’s a chance that the All-Star Game opportunity could put him on the radar of National Football League teams, Means said that’s something he’ll worry about if and when it happens.

“I came here to serve my country,” Means said. “When I’m done with school and football, that’s what I’ll do, first and foremost.”