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September 15, 2010

ON GUARD - Former Tech player Todd Meade protects Vice President Joe Biden as a member of the U.S. Secret Service

By: Jimmy Robertson

Former Tech Player Todd Meade

As a former offensive lineman at Virginia Tech in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Todd Meade knows quite a bit about protection. Back then, he worked with several others in protecting a valuable commodity in Will Furrer, the Hokies’ starting signal caller for several years.

These days, he help protects someone a little more famous than Mr. Furrer.

Meade works as a special agent for the United States Secret Service, one of the most – if not the most – elite law enforcement organizations in the world. He has been assigned to Vice President Joe Biden’s detail and essentially works as a team with many others to provide protection for the country’s No. 2 leader.

“I don’t take this job lightly,” Meade said. “I feel blessed to be in this position. It’s a great opportunity, and I have fun doing it.”

During his playing days at Tech, he never envisioned himself in a career in law enforcement. Of course, he was a little busy helping head coach Frank Beamer rebuild the foundation of Tech’s football program, which had suffered some cracks after being placed on probation by the NCAA for some violations that had occurred under former coach Bill Dooley.

Meade was a member of Beamer’s first recruiting class, joining guys like Eugene Chung and James Hargrove. A small-town guy from Big Stone Gap, Virginia, (population: 4,800) in deep southwest Virginia, he picked the Hokies over Kentucky and East Tennessee State, citing the family atmosphere surrounding the school and the community.

“I visited all three schools,” Meade said. “When I took my official visit [January of 1987], it just felt like home. I felt comfortable with the place.”

Meade redshirted his first year while recovering from a shoulder injury. He lettered his final three years – and the Hokies enjoyed two winning seasons in that span.

Like most of his teammates, his most memorable moment – in addition to the time he spent with his friends – came during the 1990 season. In the season finale against UVa, the Hokies broke out the all-maroon uniforms and spray-painted their cleats black. Then they hammered the Cavaliers 38-13 at Lane Stadium to finish the season with a 6-5 mark. A then-record crowd of 54,157 people attended, and the game marked Tech’s first appearance on ESPN.

Meade never played in a bowl game in his career, but the UVa game would have probably ranked higher than any bowl game.

“They had been ranked No. 1 earlier in the year, and I think they were 17th coming in,” Meade said. “They had guys like Shawn Moore [quarterback] and Herman Moore [receiver]. We had the maroon-on-maroon and the black shoes. Everyone was just so excited. That’s definitely my most memorable moment.”

Todd Meade (left), with his wife Samantha and
children Allan (top) and Brittany (top right)

Meade graduated from Tech in 1992 with a degree in exercise physiology. He wanted to get into physical therapy, but his grades in such a demanding degree program weren’t quite good enough.

He worked for a while at Chemical Waste Management in Hopewell, Virginia, and then worked for five years as a bank teller at Dominion Credit Union. The position wasn’t quite what he wanted. He ended up connecting with John Rehme, a former teammate who was working as a state trooper, and that connection changed his life.

“I had an interest [in becoming a state trooper], so he brought me an application,” Meade said. “It took me nine months to go through the process, but I was hired in 1998 and I worked for five years in Petersburg.

“Then while working as a state trooper, I met some of the special agents [with the Secret Service] in that area and I was very interested in what they did because they’re a part of a top-notch law enforcement organization. So I decided to apply.”

After 21 weeks of training, multiple interviews, the passing of a polygraph test and the fulfillment of various other requirements, Meade landed a job as a special agent working out of the Richmond field office. During his first four years, he worked as part of an investigative unit that handled financial crimes such as counterfeiting and credit card fraud.

Then, in 2009, he moved from the investigative phase to the protection phase of the Secret Service and was transferred to the Vice President’s detail. He’ll be in his current role for three more years.

After that, he’s not sure the direction he plans to take.

“I may get into training, maybe at the training facility,” he said. “Long term, I’d like to get into coaching. I do miss football. My son is 15 and he’s a pretty good player, and I enjoy watching him practice and play. I did a little coaching when I was a state trooper, too. So yes, I miss it.”

Meade and his wife, Samantha, have been married for 18 years and have two children – Allan and 17-year-old Brittany – and they all live in Maryland. However, because of his duties as a special agent, he misses a lot of family time because he travels all over the world with the vice president.

“This job is challenging at times,” Meade said. “You miss birthdays and school events and sporting events. But my wife and family are very understanding and supportive of what I do. That makes it a lot easier for me.”

Despite his schedule, he manages to keep up with the Hokies, and he brought his son down for the spring game in 2008 and 2009. His job reminds him of his playing days as a Hokie when he and a group of teammates worked together toward a common goal.

“There’s a camaraderie among agents that reminds me of athletics,” he said. “You’re on a mission. It’s like being on a team. Other people’s lives are in your hands and you have to look out for them.”

Only when he played, his protection helped win a game. Now, it’s a little more important than that.