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Category: Sports Published on Friday, 30 November 2012 11:36 Written by Leland Stein III
(Photo Credit: JOIQUE BELL from Wayne State. – Lakeshia Harvey photo)
ALLEN PARK – The Detroit Lions have surely fallen short of most expectations; however, as is the case in any professional sports endeavor there are those that are fighting to make a place for themselves in the mega-sports world of the NFL.
The Lions fans can speculate the reason their team have basically taken itself out of the 2012 NFL Playoff picture, is bad karma and a not ready for prime time roster.
Even in the midst of this disapproving season, there are always highlights and unexpected positives.
One unexpected positive has been the play of Detroit Wayne State University running back Joique Bell. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound running back is making his mark as the Lions' go-to guy late in games.
“Man I’m just trying to help this team win games,” Bell said. “When they call my number to respond I try to do just that. I always had confidence in myself as a running, but it mattered not if I was never given a chance to do what I do.
“So far the Lions have given me shot and I’m trying to make the best of it.”
After his record breaking senior year at Wayne State Bell was signed by the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2010. In succession he played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts, and New Orleans Saints.
Getting kicked around is always a unique and uncertain burden for undrafted players in the NFL, or any sport.
However, as a senior at Wayne State, Bell won the Harlon Hill Trophy, awarded to the Division II player of the year, after he rushed for 2,084 yards and 29 touchdowns.
His first few NFL stops had him resigned as a practice squad player. Finally in December, 2011, Bell was signed by the Lions. All Lions fans wondered who was this running back with the big stats?
Since his opportunity the bruising Bell has averaged 5.2 yards a carry and 12 yards a reception in the second half as the Lions have used him to shred tired defenses. The move has paid off for all involved, and Bell, who had stints with four teams in two years before coming to the Lions, has carved himself quite a niche.
"When the coaches look at you and have faith in you, you have to realize, their decisions are being judged just as much as my play is being judged," Bell said. "So if I go out there and do a terrible job, their job is on the line. So for them to put that trust into me, it just gives me that much more confidence in my play.”
Bell left Wayne State, just down the road from Ford Field, as one of the best running backs in Division II history. He ripped defensive lines for 6,728 yards in his four seasons, including 88 touchdowns.
Bell is the first player from Wayne State to make the NFL since 1996. His college coach, Paul Winters, said Bell was easily the hardest-working and most talented player on the field.
"In college, he was a good-sized tailback for any level," Winters said. "He combined that with his speed and natural instincts. I think he has really great vision and great feet, and you combine that with his hard work and you have a great talent."
"I always dreamed of it, but you're just dreaming," Bell said of getting a chance. "You really don't know how it goes. You have to be prepared when opportunity presents itself and just attack it."
Opportunity and preparation is a powerful combination. With Jahvid Best (concussion) and Mikel Leshour fighting back from injuries, the opportunistic Bell slid into the opening and immediately started paying dividends.
"It feels good for a guy like Joique," Lions coach Jim Schwartz. "It's tough to be an NFL football player; it's tough to break a roster. We had him in the Senior Bowl a few years ago and he's made teams and been on practice squads and stuff like that, and it felt good to see him earn a roster spot with our team.”
Bell has a noteworthy 4.9 yard peer carry average and had scored three touchdowns. He is also fourth on the team in receptions.
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