INDIANAPOLIS — Despite back-to-back wins over arch-rival Ohio State and back-to-back Big Ten titles, Ronnie Bell opted to deviate from the norm this week when asked about his favorite moment in college.
Michigan’s star receiver chose to pick something personal, a moment from fall camp in Ann Arbor when life seemed a little more normal.
“When I was able to go back out there and, like, practice,” Bell told reporters Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I remember I jumped, I fell, I was so happy.”
He had fully recovered from a torn ACL that sidelined him for much of the 2021 season, a year that helped resurrect Michigan football and bring the Wolverines back into the conversation about the national title.
Bell has been a key figure in weathering those disappointing 2019 and 2020 seasons, emerging as a respected and game-making away threat. Now, standing on a podium at the week-long combine event designed to give NFL personnel and a personal, up-close look at this year’s draft prospects, it’s all come full circle for the Bell of 5 feet 11 inches and 192 pounds. .
“You dream of this experience,” he said. “Each night you step back and realize how lucky you are – how blessed you are – to do all that you have truly worked for. For my dream of the NFL being so close – right at my fingertips – this is the real deal.
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Truth be told, football wasn’t always in the cards for Bell, a two-sport star at Park High School in Kansas City. He was planning to go to Missouri State on a basketball scholarship when an interested Jim Harbaugh, acting on a tip from an extended family member, called.
That’s when everything changed.
“When I was in Kansas City, the most important thing was playing college football in general,” said Bell, a two-time Big Ten winner. “That was the first step. Once I was at the next level, the next dream was to be here.
Bell’s athleticism and knack for opening up impressed Michigan coaches, so much so that he played in all 13 games in his true freshman season. He followed that in 2019 with a breakout year, leading the team in catches (48) and receiving yards (758) en route to being named the team’s Offensive Player of the Year, and followed him again in 2020 with a better team. 26 catches and 401 receiving yards on a shortened schedule.
That left until 2021, the year Bell was supposed to take over and go for the NFL Draft. Then the injury happened, in Week 1 of the season during a harmless tackle on a punt return against West Michigan.
“Last year, when I took a step back, it gave me a different perspective on the game and on life,” Bell said. “I feel like a grown me as a person and as a man to really step in now and have more confidence about it.”
Bell enters the NFL Draft as part of another class of talented wide receivers. He won’t be a Day 1 pick and will likely be relegated to slots and special teams, but he did enough in the Senior Bowl to earn attention as a prospect worthy of playing at the next level.
Ironically enough, this year’s NFL Draft will take place April 27-29 in his hometown of Kansas City, where Bell may hear his name called in front of a large contingent of family and friends.
“It doesn’t even seem real,” Bell said. “It kind of comes full circle when you think about the timeline and how it all unfolded with my release this year. Definitely really, really excited about it.
How’s that for a fairy tale ending?
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