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Means kept his faith in journey back to NFL

Apr. 9, 2013
 
Cornerback Loyce Means (44) with the Buffalo Bills during training camp in 2011. Now he getting a chance with the Green Bay Packers.
Cornerback Loyce Means (44) with the Buffalo Bills during training camp in 2011. Now he getting a chance with the Green Bay Packers. / File/Getty Images

The idea originated with his girlfriend, but Loyce Means quickly took it to heart.

It had been more than a year since Means had played his last professional football game, but he had faith another opportunity would present itself.

It had to.

After months of tryouts without receiving a contract, Means sat down and wrote a short note thanking God for his blessings and asking for another chance at playing football – any kind of football.

Three times a day, Means prayed on that letter until a couple weeks ago when he and his girlfriend, Natasha Means, traveled up to Memphis, Tenn., where he recognized a man near the Avis Car Rental kiosk at the airport.

It was Green Bay Packers senior personnel director Alonzo Highsmith, who was part of the front office that scouted Means coming out of the University of Houston before the 2011 NFL draft.

Since then, the 5-foot-10, 188-pound cornerback has added more than 10 pounds to his frame, splitting his days between stocking shelves at Glazer’s Wholesale in Houston and spending hundreds of hours training and working out at 24-Hour Fitness.

“They wanted to draft me, but I had a small frame and I was small back then,” Means said. “He walked behind me and I recognized him and he was talking about Greg Jennings and I was looking. I was like, ‘Man, you look familiar. I was like what’s your name?’ He’s like, ‘Alonzo.’ And before he could say his last name, I said, ‘Highsmith.’

“I called him about 16 times, left him about five or six messages, but after that I stopped calling. Once he saw him, he did a double-look on me because he said I got bigger.”

The two struck up a conversation and Highsmith told Means he wanted to work him out. The following week, the two met in Houston where Means ran a 4.34-second time for Highsmith in the 40-yard dash.

It was actually slower than the 4.27 and 4.31 times he registered in tryouts over the past year with UFL, CFL and AFL teams, but it was enough to pique Highsmith’s interest and earn a contract with the Packers.

After going up to Green Bay and signing the deal, Means went back to Houston and put in his two-week notice. After a year of sharing his goals with his co-workers, the opportunity was finally before him.

Following a training-camp stint with Buffalo in 2011 and a brief stay with the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Means isn’t just back playing football — he’s in the NFL.

“My job got so much more amplified because I was like, ‘No, they’re not going to close this on me, I’m going to keep knocking until somebody open it,’” Means said.

“I knew it was going to come. I was thinking it’s a longer route, but God works in mysterious ways and he set it up that I didn’t even have to go through one of those ways, I just went straight to the source, the NFL.”

Through all the trials and tribulations, Means has had his support system, Natasha and godfather Ted Latimer. On his way back to the NFL, Means wrote down two scripture passages and never forgot them when times were tough.

First, Matthew 21:22: “Whatever he asks for in prayer, if he believes it, he will receive it,” and then Mark 9:23: “Everything is possible for one who has faith.”

In Green Bay, Means sees opportunity. He knows the story of Tramon Williams who went from a street free agent to Pro Bowl cornerback.

Now, Means plans to stay positive. He’ll travel to Green Bay next Sunday. When he starts his journey, he plans to write another note. After all, he's already followed through with his first.

“Over the past year, it was really rough, but where I’m from, where I grew up, we were taught to never quit, so I just stayed grounded and kept on pushing,” said Means, who was born and raised in the "Aristocrats" section of Houston.

“I put my heart and soul into this. This is my livelihood. This is how I live. This is what I want to do. This is what I love to do. When I’m on the field, I’m going to give 100 percent.”

whodkiew@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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