Demonstrates Excellence on the Field
Resilience is a quality that can be ascribed to Steven Means both on and off the field. The 30-year-old Defensive End sustained a season-ending Achilles injury in the offseason ahead of the 2019 season. The Falcons had high hopes for him after he impressed in a rotational role in 2018, his first year with the club, but those hopes were put on pause as he worked his way back from the injury. Steven accomplished his comeback, returning to the field for the 2020 season. A leader in the locker room, he has started three games for Atlanta this season, and he's seen time in each contest thus far. A stout run defender who excels at setting the edge, he has recorded 20 tackles, one tackle for a loss and has three quarterback hits while playing 55 percent of the team's defensive snaps.
Demonstrates Dedication and Commitment to Community Efforts this Year
This year, Steven has continued to lead the Atlanta Falcons player-led Social Justice Committee with the mission to turn a moment into a movement. Steven led the charge with the committee's support to educate youth in the voting space. With the committee's support, he utilized relationships with high school football teams across the state to encourage football players to sign up to work polls for Election Day, knowing there is a shortage of poll workers due to the pandemic. Steven spent many off days on Zoom calls speaking to high school football teams about the importance of voting and helping fulfill their civic duty by working the polls. "Voting is the number one thing we believe in and that we are driving hard on because we can get the right people in the right place to make a change," he said. One of the schools Steven focused on was Booker T. Washington High School, a school with the largest dropout rate on the Westside of Atlanta – a similar neighborhood to what Steven grew up in. "When Steven Means was talking about his experiences, it just motivated me to want to get out there and help make a change in the world like they do," said King Walker, Booker T. Washington High School football player.
Demonstrates Dedication and Commitment to Community Efforts in Years Past
Steven joined the Atlanta Falcons in 2018 where he immediately expressed interest in giving back to the community and took action by joining the player-led Social Justice Committee. As a part of the committee, Steven initiated conversations around law enforcement relationships with the community they serve. He later turned his words into actions by spearheading multiple police ride-alongs for players and coaches allowing them to develop a better understanding of their day-to-day roles. Steven took it a step further by visiting Thomasville Heights Boys & Girls Club in Atlanta; a Boys & Girls Club that had a police mentoring program in place which was sponsored by the Atlanta Falcons and Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. The program focused on building law enforcement and youth relationships through ongoing, weekly conversation between the two groups. While there, Steven led conversations with teenage males based around the stigma of mental health and stability in black culture. Those conversations included local police officers, in an effort to try to bridge the gap between the two groups. During training camp in 2019, Steven hosted Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson and Yusef Salaam (three members of the Exonerated Five) to a VIP visit at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility. While at the facility, Steven led conversations between his guests and players about social injustice and ways they can work together to make a difference. Although placed on the injured reserve list after tearing his Achilles ahead of the 2019 season, Steven made it his mission to pour into the lives of youth and fight against social injustice. That year, he was a part of a small select group of players recognized as an Atlanta Falcons Community Allstar for their efforts in the community throughout the year.
Demonstrates Consistency in Positive Character and Models A Lifestyle of Giving Back
Steven Means exemplifies positive character both on the field and in the community. On the field, Steven is the ultimate team hype man, the first to congratulate teammates on big plays and first to pick them up when they need it. In the community, he is a role model and mentor for youth that have come from the same neighborhoods he was once raised. "I was able to go back to my high school, grammar school [in Buffalo, NY] to fund a couple of the students that graduated. Then to talk to them on a one-on-one basis, to be able to see, you know, see me as a little kid through them and just see a little bit of hope, you know, like you can make it, I promise you," he said. Steven models a lifestyle of giving back in everything he does from helping youth in his hometown of Buffalo, to educating youth on how build a stronger future through Democracy, to helping give victims of systematic racism a voice. No matter what, Steven isn't concerned about himself but how he can help impact those around him. "No sense on sitting back watching, if you are interested, just dive in. I would just say, dive in head-first," he said.