The linebacker was a sophomore when the Warriors went 1-9 in 2012. In the weeks prior to that season, he didn’t notice any college scouts watching practice, and no one had expectations for the team to reach the state playoffs.
Bean led the team in tackles that year, though he now admits he wasn’t much of a team player.
“As a sophomore, I didn’t really know what I was doing out there,” Bean said. “I was just playing, not really as a team. I feel like I have grown into being a leader on and off the field and understanding the game.”
Last year, things began to change.
Cherokee went 5-5 and just missed out on the state playoffs. Blace Brown was named to the Class AAAAAA all-state team, quarterback Spencer Ashley led the classification in regular-season passing yards and Bean led the team in tackles once more.
Now as a senior, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Bean is hoping to see Cherokee complete the transformation.
“It’s going to be a good year,” said Bean, a member of the 2014 Cherokee Tribune Super Six. “The way practice has been going lately, everyone is clicking on all cylinders, and it’s looking real good.”
Bean isn’t the only one who has that opinion. Several Region 5AAAAAA coaches consider Cherokee to be one of the region’s top teams, and college scouts have taken notice of Bean and some of his teammates.
“It’s totally different,” Bean said. “Back when I was a sophomore, there were no colleges coming around and talking to anybody. This year, everything took off for everyone on the team. We had about 85 colleges come through and look at the key players.”
When naming the key players on this year’s team, Bean leaves himself off the list — not because he lacks talent, but because he is humble.
“Spencer, the quarterback, wide receiver Andrew Harris, Brittain Brown, our middle linebacker, Dwayne Tiller, and Travis Head,” Bean said.
Cherokee coach Josh Shaw certainly puts Bean on his list of impact players. Shaw expects him to break the Warriors’ career tackles record before season’s end.
“After the last two seasons that he has had, we are expecting big things again,” Shaw said. “He led the team in tackles the last two years, and he only needs 100 or so more to set a new program record in that.”
Bean admits he takes pride in his accomplishments, such as leading the team in tackles for two straight years. He uses it as motivation to do it again, saying the key is his approach.
“I’m just always working hard trying to get better,” Bean said.
Bean doesn’t play football for personal glory, though he does hope it’s enough to get him a college scholarship. This summer, he was a part of the five-man group of Cherokee players who won the Lineman Challenge, which he hopes brought a little more attention to the program.
“It’s great knowing that all my hard work is paying off,” Bean said. “I don’t know exactly where I want to go. I’m still waiting for a couple more offers just to see how everything ends up.”
Bean has received offers from Charlotte and the Virginia Military Institute, while Vanderbilt, Navy, Air Force, Mercer, Middle Tennessee, Western Carolina, Georgia State and Georgia Southern have shown interest.
Bean said he still has plenty to prove, both as an individual and as part of a team.
“We want to get to the playoffs and reach game 11,” Bean said. “My personal goals — of course, I want to get all-region, but I want to go for all-state this year. I want to break the tackle record for the school. Coach Shaw told me I’m pretty close.”