ORLANDO — He walked off the field Saturday afternoon with long, blond hair dancing off his shoulder pads and a gold medal swinging from his neck.
When he disappeared into the bowels of the Citrus Bowl, a perfect afternoon lost its best football player.
Beau Hume, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound relatively unknown linebacker on a team known for its offensive fireworks, crashed into Plant lore by crashing into anything wearing a green and gold uniform.
Four tackles for loss.
One interception return for a touchdown.
Oh, and one state title.
"Greatest. Linebacker. Ever," teammate Bryant Jones said.
• • •
Hume bleeds black and gold. On a team known as much for its high-profile transfers as its deep family tradition, Hume is as homegrown as they come.
His dad, Bob, was a two-year letterman. His brother and sister went to the Plant. "All I wanted to do growing up was play football for Plant," Hume said.
So imagine the pain, when he finally got the chance to realize his dream as a freshman, and he was cut. The son of a former team captain. Cut.
"It hurt," he said.
As all his friends became Panthers, Hume returned to the local youth football league to resume his career as … a Seahawk.
"I think it was the best thing that could have happened to me," he said. "I thought everything was going to be handed to me."
He made the junior varsity team as a sophomore and played quarterback for the first time because the Panthers needed someone. As a junior, he began to emerge as a linebacker.
"I was a little scared my first game against (local and state power) Armwood," he admitted.
Saturday, in a game where Aaron Murray threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns and Orson Charles caught two of those, Hume may have ended his career with an MVP performance. Colleges aren't beating down his door. Maybe that changes now — he was that good— and if not, then he'll fulfill another boyhood dream of going to Florida State.
But those colleges sleeping on Hume? They don't know what they're missing, according to defensive coordinator John Few.
"You tell him something one time, and he knows it and remembers it; that's 90 percent of it right there,'' Few said. "He doesn't get nervous. He's a dream to coach. If every kid was like Beau Hume …"
• • •
You will likely remember that Plant led 28-0 at halftime on the strength of two 72-yard touchdown passes. You will forget that in a scoreless game, Lincoln had the chance to draw first blood, set up nicely on the Plant 8.
But the Panthers stuffed Lincoln running backs twice, then Hume broke through and sacked quarterback Ryan White on third down to force a field goal try that was blocked. Plant then drove 80 yards for the game's first score.
"We knew right then we were in position to set the tone right there,'' Hume said. "And we did.''
On Lincoln's next series, Hume chased White into Charles' waiting arms, forcing a punt that led to another Plant score.
And the series after that?
Hume stepped in the way of a White pass and returned it 24 yards to make it 21-0.
Hume caused a fumble on the next series, to diversify his title game portfolio and added a sack in the third quarter. You know, in case White forgot about him.
"He was an animal," Few said.
When it was over, Hume joked about the journey, about following in his dad's path. "He doesn't have one of these," he said of his medal.
The television cameras never quite got around to Hume on Saturday. That was fine by him.
With his long, blond hair dancing off his shoulder pads and his gold medal swinging from his neck, he disappeared into the locker room.
And the perfect afternoon said goodbye to its best football player.