When Alex Means graduated from Mankato East in 2008, there’s no way he could have dreamed of playing in the NFL.
Or graduate from the Air Force Academy.
Or be a husband with a 3-year-old son and a daughter due in June.
But that’s where Means is at now, a week away from participating in the Carolina Panthers’ minicamp, which could drastically change his life’s path.
“I didn’t even know if I could play college football,” he said. “This is nuts.”
Means wasn’t highly recruited out of high school and was set to attend Wisconsin-La Crosse.
But a visit to the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colo., changed his plans as he was lured by the call of serving his country.
He also had a chance to play Division I football there, and he excelled.
In his four-year career, he played in 42 games and made 228 tackles, including 23 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. He made three interceptions, recovered three fumbles and blocked one kick, something he already did well at East.
It was early in his senior season that he started noticing professional scouts as the Air Force practices, some of whom were there to watch him, and he began to think he might have a future in football.
“I thought that was pretty cool,” Means said.
After Means graduated from the Academy in 2012, he thought there might be a chance to hook up with an NFL team, but perhaps because he still had a military commitment, he didn’t get that opportunity. So he spent last season as a graduate-assistant coach with the Air Force football team, working out when he could to give pro football another shot.
“The schedule of a GA is pretty full, but the coaches here have been great about letting me work out when I have some free time,” he said.