When the Monticello football team takes the field at Northside for their second round playoff matchup on Friday, they will be led on defense by Jefferson District defensive player of the year Sean Means.
Means learned he had been named the player of the year before Monticello's first round game last Friday.
"I really appreciate the honor because it's just showing that the hard work we put forth out here every day, it pays off," he said. "Not just for me, but it shows that my teammates put forth a lot of effort. Although they might not have gotten this, they helped me to be better and helped me to get the honor."
During the regular season the senior defensive tackle helped the Mustangs to a 9-1 record. On defense, he recorded 56 total tackles, along with eight sacks and three forced fumbles.
"When a play needs to be made, call on Sean Means," said Monticello senior running back T.J. Tillery. "He's the person that you want to have on your defensive line when you need to make a big play."
If you ask Means' teammates and coaches about him, they'll tell you what a quick, hard-working football player he is. But before that, they make sure to point out how smart he is and how sharp he is, both on and off the field.
When first year head coach Jeff Woody met his new team for the first time last spring, he heard good things about Means right away.
"I came up for the first weightlifting session, I was told, 'hey, that's Sean Means. That's Sean Means, he's fast as all get-out, he's got a motor that doesn't quit, and he's a genius," Woody remembers.
"After weightlifting, I approached him in the cafeteria as he was doing extra schoolwork. I asked him what he was doing. He was creating a PowerPoint presentation for his history class. Me, as a history teacher, I wanted to tap into it and share a conversation. Very quickly, when he put me in my place, I figured 'yeah this guy is sharp.'"
Means has been playing football since eighth grade, but he's been dedicated to his education since long before that.
"That's the thing my mom instilled in me, like I was doing schoolwork and I was focusing on doing a good college career way before I started playing football," Means says. "Schoolwork always comes first because that's what's going to get you somewhere."
On the field, Means is a consistent playmaker for the Mustangs, but making those big plays isn't the only way he helps out his teammates.
"Actually Sean tutored me in Physics," says Tillery. "I was asking around like, 'who's good at Physics?' and Sean's like 'I'm good at Physics.' The next thing you know he was tutoring me in Physics and it was just like 'oh wow, he is very smart.' Not many people can be as smart as he is on the field and be as smart as he is in the classroom."
But according to Tillery, Means doesn't just tutor his teammates in the classroom.
"He breaks it down for himself, he breaks it down for other people and let's everybody understand what you need to do, where you need to be. It's really good having him there because sometimes you don't know what you're doing, and you come to Sean, and he's like 'you do this, that and the other,' and the next thing you know, a big play happens, and it's all because of Sean."
Means and the Mustangs are currently focused on the playoffs, but he's also working on college applications. The Monticello senior is applying to schools like Stanford, Yale and Brown, in addition to some that are closer to home, like Virginia, William and Mary, and Hampden-Sydney.
"People I think, sometimes take for granted education," he says. "For me to get accepted to one of those schools means that all the work that I've put in since elementary school, and just the work that my mom has put in to making sure I go to a good school, that I stay on top of my grades, that just shows how great of a person she is, and how great of a person she's made me into being."
Wherever he ends up, Means is thinking about studying international relations or government and possibly getting a law degree.
Ultimately, the defensive lineman who excels at hurting opposing offenses wants to go into politics, so he can help people.
"As a politician or something of that nature I could maybe shape policies or legislation more-so to help people and not just get caught up in the big mess of 'oh we're government, we want something, we want the power.' I want to actually use that power to try to help people."