The only speed that Regie Meant knows on the football field is full steam ahead.
Off the field, it's the gear he has needed his entire life.
A first-generation American who spent his early years in another country, Meant didn't speak English until he started his schooling in the United States and didn't play the sport he loves until an older-than-usual age.
He had to beat the odds time and again to even make it to the University of Kentucky.
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Now that he's here, he's not about to let up.
To hear those who know him best tell it, he wouldn't even know how.
Meant was born in Boston to Haitian immigrants and spent his first couple of months there with his mother, who then moved to Florida to try to make a better living while Meant was sent to Haiti to live with his grandmother.
He stayed there until he was ready to begin school, returning to the United States and his mother in Florida. He spoke no English — he'd spent his whole life to that point speaking Creole, and it remained the only language that was used in his new home.
Meant eventually adjusted to the change and started to fit in with his new surroundings.
He wanted to start his football career then, too, but the junior leagues in Florida had weight limits, and Meant — who UK lists at 6-foot-4 and 302 pounds — has always been big for his age.
"I was bigger than everybody else," he said. "If I was going to play, I would have had to play with guys that were like 3, 4, 5 years older than me. And my mom wasn't down for that."
Instead, he played basketball, wrestled and participated in track and field.
By the time he got to high school, he was ready to hit the gridiron.
Meant started out with the Ida S. Baker freshman team, but his career nearly ended there.
He was raw, of course — having never played the game — but he had the size that coaches dream about. He also had some trouble off the field that gave the Baker coaching staff pause.
They wanted him on the team, but they also wanted him doing the right things away from it.
"We saw a kid who didn't realize his potential," said Baker head coach Brian Conn. "And we didn't want him to throw it away. We believed in him. He was a 14-year-old kid making 14-year-old mistakes. ... We let him know about it."
Conn and a couple of his fellow coaches sat down with Meant before his sophomore year, spelled out what they expected of him and tried to make him realize the gift he had and where it could possibly lead him.
Baker defensive coordinator Dwayne Mack was one of the coaches in that meeting. From that day forward, he said, Meant was the ideal player and teammate.
"He busted his butt," Mack said. "He did everything we asked. He's like a sponge. He wants to learn. He wants to get better.
"Regie didn't necessarily have the best situation. But he's a kid who is all about the grit. He's going to do what it takes to be successful. It's not about excuses. He has a vision, and if anybody gets in the way of that vision, he's going to move them aside."
Meant quickly assumed a leadership role on the Baker football team and, by his senior season, major college programs were inquiring about him.
'Nothing came easy'
While he was excelling on the field, things didn't come as easy in the classroom, or at home.
Dayna Bowden — a teacher at the school — started working with Meant during his junior year. Students at Baker are permitted to re-take exams and re-do assignments if they don't get their desired grade, but Bowden said few are willing to put in the extra work that requires.
Meant was an exception.
"Nothing came easy to him," she said. "What a normal child would study an hour for, he would have to study four hours for. He would come in early in the morning and make up tests. He would stay late and make up work.
"Whatever it took to keep his grades up, he would do it. Because he knew that was his ticket into college. Even though it wasn't easy for him, he didn't let that stop him at all. ... He was always willing to go that extra mile. That's why he stood out."
Meant worked so hard at his studies that he had the necessary credits to graduate from high school a semester early. At that point, he was sure he wanted to play for Kentucky, but the program didn't have enough open scholarships to accommodate his early enrollment.
Instead, he took a couple of electives at Baker and got a job at the local McDonald's to help his mother with the bills.
One of his older brothers had recently been deported to Haiti — that was the only day his coaches remembered Meant being down — and his mom, Rose Malbranche, worked long hours as an in-home nurse for the elderly.
Everything he had achieved at that point — sticking with football, earning a college scholarship and putting himself in a position to use it — came from an eagerness to one day put her in a better place.
"He came from a humble background," Bowden said. "He didn't have a lot. And he's always told me that he wanted to provide for his mom, that he wanted better things for his mom. He wanted a better life for her. He didn't want her to have to work so much, and he wanted to be able to take care of her."
Meant — who has the reputation of being somewhat shy around those he doesn't know well — lights up when he talks about his mother and what she thinks of the man he has become.
"She's very happy, because I'm the first in the family that's been in college for this long," he said. "She always stressed on me going to school. She's very proud that I'm up here.
"I took football very seriously, because I knew that was the only way. If I didn't, I don't know where I'd be right now or what I'd be doing."
100 percent, always
Meant came to UK as the lowest-rated recruit in the Wildcats' class of 2013.
He entered this week at No. 1 on the depth chart at defensive tackle.
That's quite an ascent in just two years with the program, especially for a player with as little football experience as Meant had coming in.
No one who has spent much time around him is surprised.
The voices of his high school coaches soften at the mention of his name.
The smiles are bright when his coaches and teammates at UK are asked about his progress.
"He's a guy that's going to give you every single ounce of effort that he has," Wildcats defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh said. "The biggest upside is he has the size and he has leadership. (Teammates) listen to him, and he does what's right. That can carry him a long ways."
Senior defensive end Farrington Huguenin has described Meant as "violent" — in a good way — on the field.
"He's just full go in everything he does," he said. "If he's striking somebody, it's going to be with all of his force. ... He's had that since he got here; he just had to harness it and know how to control it."
There are times when Meant is still a little out of control.
For example, being an offensive lineman across from him during drills is not an optimal position.
"I'm used to doing everything 100 percent," Meant said. "Sometimes we'll be doing walk-throughs and they're like, 'Hey, you gotta slow down.' I just like to do everything 100 percent."
When asked if he has ever knocked over a teammate because of that, he smiles and nods, then thinks for a moment about why that might be.
"Their 50 percent just isn't my 50, for some reason," he says.
Going 50 percent has never been an option, and that's why he's here.
His former coaches spoke of the many teachers and principals back at Baker High who helped Meant along the way, seeing the determination he possessed and doing whatever they could to help him reach his goals.
They also mentioned occasionally running into his mother, who speaks excitedly of what her son has been up to in the two years since he left home.
Bowden, his former teacher, who happens to be a native of Barbourville, was one of the many teachers who helped Meant achieve his success. She plans to return home to attend at least one UK game for every season Meant is a Wildcat, and she said he always stops by the school when he's in Florida to visit his mom.
"Our motto at Baker is, 'Success is the only option.' And Regie is a wonderful example of that," she said. "We're very proud of him. And every time I go to Kentucky, I have to spend the next four or five days telling everybody how great he is."