The first time Bub Means entered the transfer portal, exiting Tennessee following the 2019 season after being slotted into the system as a defensive back, he hit it off with Tiquan Underwood.
However, it didn’t work out that Means would join Underwood at Rutgers, where Underwood was in his first season as the Scarlet Knights’ receivers coach, and Means would eventually enroll at Louisiana Tech. But when he turned a strong 2021 season into another transfer portal opportunity, Underwood didn’t miss a second time.
Underwood wasn’t sure if it was God or what with the second opportunity, but he knew that it was meant to be. And Means himself was even more confident, he felt like it was God’s plan that allowed him to eventually find his way to Pitt and join Underwood.
Means doesn’t exactly remember who reached out to who the second time around, admitting that he didn’t even know Underwood was coaching at Pitt when the contact began, but he couldn’t be happier to play for a ‘players’ coach like Underwood or in a wide receivers room like Pitt’s.
“The atmosphere, the coaches, I love what we’ve got going here,” Means said after practice Wednesday. “We’re gonna win the natty, that’s the goal we’re working toward, and I want to be a part of that.”
Means, who stands at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, is chiseled. As Rashad Battle described him, he’s ‘stout.’ Battle, who stands at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds himself, isn’t especially used to matching up against physical wide receivers, but he’s got that and then some with Means.
“Bub is very physical,” Battle said after practice Wednesday. “He can run as well; he’s got deceptive speed. He’s really fast.”
In his lone season at Louisiana Tech in 2021, Means hauled in 22 catches, turning those receptions into 430 yards and two touchdowns. At just under 20 yards per reception, he served as a big-play deep threat in an offense that wasn’t exactly built for the deep ball.
Means graded out positively in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus, lining up almost exclusively out wide. With 164 yards after the catch, averaging a robust 7.5 yards after catch per reception, he served as a threat with and without the ball in his hands.
In racking up two yards per route run in 2021, averaging a 17.5-yard average depth of target, Means was able to maximize just 39 targets on the season.
As a deep ball threat, Means hauled in five of his 17 targets for 199 yards and both of his touchdowns on routes over 20 yards. While those numbers don’t pop off the page, with stronger quarterback play in a rapidly pass-happy ACC, Means is an underrated weapon.
“I play both inside and outside, but as a receiver, I’m big, fast, strong, and I just feel like, give me the ball and I can make plays,” Means said. “I’m a playmaker. And I feel like I can contribute to the team.”
With the loss of Jordan Addison to USC since Means committed in April, Mean’s unsure status as immediately being eligible to play in 2022 — which wasn’t a guarantee due to his status as a second-time transfer — became an important storyline. And when it was announced that he was eligible, it was a major weight off his shoulders. Even if it wasn’t always on his mind throughout the spring.
“That was a blessing, a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Means said. “In all honesty, I wasn’t really focused on that when I was going through the summer. I totally actually forgot about it, I’m working hard with my teammates and it was in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t really bothering me too much.”
Means has been fully invested in his training since arriving at Pitt, and now that he’s competing at camp, matching up with Battle and Pitt’s cornerbacks with an added level of physicality and speed, he has high expectations for the group. Even without Addison, he feels like Pitt’s wide receiving room is destined for great things.
“We got talent in the receiver room,” Means said. “Probably got the best receiver room in the nation, in my opinion, but we got a few receivers. All of us bring something different to the table. We’ve got speed, we’ve got route runners, we’ve got a plethora of talent in our room.
“I know that our room, with him, we were going to be great,” Means said. “Without him, we’re going to be great. Great player that left, but without him, we’ve still gotta make plays. I feel like our room is gonna do well without him.”
With camp just kicking off, just under a month away from the season opener against West Virginia at Acrisure Stadium, Pitt’s ‘professional camp’ has all the intensity he wants, it’s not quite as hot as the ‘treacherous’ Louisiana heat could sometimes be — even if it was pretty hot Wednesday — and he’s even living out a childhood dream.
“This is a blessing,” Means said. “I’m real grateful. I’m appreciative of all this. It’s like a dream come true. I used to be a Steelers fan growing up, so me to be practicing at the same field is a blessing.”
When he was growing up in Lovejoy, Georgia, Means was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. And it was in large part because of the presence of his favorite player Troy Polamalu in the Steelers’ secondary. In fact, it was such a large part that he actually wanted to be a safety for a long time — and he wouldn’t say no to a Head and Shoulders sponsorship either. But his favorite wide receiver? Antonio Brown, of course.
With Mean’s first game as a Pitt Panther coming at Acrisure Stadium, formerly Heinz Field where Polamalu and Brown starred, the Backyard Brawl is a big game. Obviously. But he can’t help but keep an eye on that Week 2 matchup against Tennessee too.
“That’s the real rivalry for me, I take that a little personal, but we’ve gotta get through Sept. 1,” Means said. “That’s what my mindset is on, we’ve gotta get through Friday at camp.
“We’re gonna put on a show against (Tennessee),” Means said. “Oh, it’s gonna be a big game. I wanna beat them bad. Taking that a little personal.”
Training camp just began, West Virginia is up first and then Tennessee, and Pitt still has to determine a new quarterback — Means doesn’t care if it’s Kedon Slovis or Nick Patti playing since he believes Pitt will be elite with either. But Means loves where he is now, blessed and thankful to have finally found a home in college football after a couple of stops. And Underwood, now that he’s finally with him, couldn’t be more pleased either.
“He’s a player that loves football, and he loves working,” Underwood said. “I think that’s been great to add to our room, and it’s only going to make us better.”