Oh, he’s a freshman. OK.
And that was that. Well, until he touched the ball.
In the three years that have followed, Bean’s speed, quickness and stocky build have helped to pave the way for a different kind of Pleasant Valley football team: One that makes the playoffs, only 2009 excluded.
But while two out of three ain’t bad, Bean has his mind set on just one thing — going 3-for-4.
“We’re going to be back there,” the senior said.
And the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder should know, or at least he’ll hold the key to making it happen.
It was only the second game of his varsity career that Bean broke into triple-digit rushing yards. He continued to do that his freshman season, leading the Raiders all the way to their first playoffs berth in more than a decade.
“I kick myself in the butt for not bringing him up as an eighth grader,” Pleasant Valley coach Jeff Davis said. “He’d have made us better that year.”
His sophomore year he avoided the slump and continued to rack up yardage and touchdowns and helped to make it back-to-back playoff berths — even after the Raiders move up to 3A classification.
But as quick as he burst onto the scene as a freshman, his junior year was derailed. During practice the week before the opener against Ohatchee, Bean injured his right hamstring. While he missed little time, it was still obvious he wasn’t the same running back.
It wasn’t until the final Class 3A, Region 5 game that Bean looked like the Kyle Bean of old, rushing for more than 100 yards and scoring four touchdowns. His return to form returned Pleasant Valley to the win column — for the first time all year.
“It was just one of those nagging injuries,” Davis said. “You could just tell that it just tore him up inside.”
Bean led the Raiders to a second win in the season finale and now hopes to keep the streak going into a new season with more than 3,500 career yards.
While last year wasn’t up to Bean’s typical standards, the weight of it couldn’t be lumped all on his injury. Honestly, it was no one’s fault — just the growing pains of playing 3A football.
After graduating double-digit linemen the year before, Pleasant Valley had a young line, even by junior high standards. This year they’re just young by varsity standards.
All returning starters, the Raiders will start a ninth grader and three sophomores. Not veterans by any means, but you won’t hear Bean complain a bit. Actually, he goes out of his way to rave about the people who move bodies out of his way.
“They have been working extremely hard at practice I really love running behind them,” Bean said. “I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do on Friday night.
“I give them all the credit ... It’s all on them, I’m just the one running with the ball. They got to do all the hard work.”
Bean will be gone in just a year, possibly etching his name into the school’s record books for career rushing numbers along the way.
But no matter what kind of mark he leaves on the school’s statistics, he said it’s doesn’t compare at all to the man who’s helped him grow as a man on and off the field in the past few years.
“About as close as we can get,” Bean said of Davis. “All the great things he’s done for our school and our football team, it’s things I don’t think any other coach could have done, or even come close to doing.”
Bran Strickland is the sport editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3570.