The understated local hero. It's become a lost trend in the NFL over time, but one that has proven no less important to the eventual success of great teams. After failing to be drafted in 2010 and bouncing around the league, Joique Bell appears to have finally found his home in Detroit.
Fortunately for him, Detroit has already been home for a while.
Bell, from Benton Harbor, Michigan, was an undrafted free agent signing of the Buffalo Bills from Wayne State University in downtown Detroit. After excelling at a small school, he always wanted to make it in the NFL. The dedication to the game that he's shown has made that completely obvious. He bounced around from training camp to practice squad to roster. He was cut, then re-signed, then cut once again. His suitcase has not only seen Buffalo, but Philadelphia, Indianapolis, New Orleans and finally, Detroit.
As with any experience in the NFL, it takes talent and dedication mixed with a little bit of luck to catch a big break. Unfortunately, Bell's break came at the hands of Jahvid Best. The Lions were looking to solidify their backfield following Best's concussion and Mikel Leshoure's knee injury. They tried Keiland Williams and got modest results out of Kevin Smith, but never truly solved the problem in an acceptable way in 2011.
Bell entered the picture late in the season, and began 2012 in the mix. With Best shelved again and Leshoure suspended early, someone had to pick up the slack. Almost out of nowhere, Bell took over. He's developed into a dependable receiving option out of the backfield and pounded out yards on the ground. All of a sudden, he's created a formidable one-two punch with Leshoure, which has given the Lions' once pathetic ground game teeth.
The best part? Bell is thriving in the very state he grew up in, within the city he became a part of while in college. There's an increased element of pride with that. In the old days, players like Chuck Bednarik and Dick Butkus were the pride and joy of Pennsylvania and Illinois, starring in Philadelphia and Chicago. Each of those players made it with hard work, just like Bell has. They got to star for the big team in their state and city. The raw passion and excitement of this, in part, helped lead their teams to success. Who wouldn't get revved up playing for a home crowd? Who wouldn't want to stay committed to win for the home folks? How wouldn't that attitude become contagious to everyone else on the roster?
Now, Bell is finally discovering his footing. He's averaging a staggering 11.4 yards receiving as a running back, had his highest rushing output of the season last week with 70 yards on the ground and put a terrible goal line fumble in Chicago behind him. He's found the end zone twice this year, and is earning the trust of the coaches with hard work.
Is he the long-term answer? Where will Bell's road eventually lead? Nobody can say for sure. If he continues to work hard and embody the spirit of his state and city, it will be nowhere but up.
Detroit and Michigan will remain proud with every Honolulu blue step.
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