Position, years at Arizona: Linebacker, 1996-1999
Honors, accomplishments at UA: Earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors in 1998 and second-team mention in 1999. … Led Pac-10 in tackles in 1998 (11.6 per game) and 1999 (10.3 per game).
Why he made our list: Coach Dick Tomey, in a 1999 season preview story in Sports Illustrated, called Bell “the best linebacker we’ve ever had here. He’s a tenacious competitor, and he runs like a defensive back.” Bell was coming off a season in which he made 139 tackles, the most for a player during Tomey’s tenure (1987-2000).
Bell, from tiny St. John’s High in the White Mountains, was lightly recruited despite being named All-Arizona by The Republic. Tomey and assistant Rich Ellerson offered Bell a scholarship after noting his aggressiveness during a wrestling match at St. John’s. Bell was a state champ in wrestling and played on football teams that went 44-0 at St. John’s.
“Committed,” Tomey told TucsonCitizen.com, describing Bell. “He was all in. He was clearly under the radar, but he was a dominant player at the high school level. He was just so committed to excellence, and he had enough ability that he continued that in college.”
Bell was the starting middle linebacker at UA for three seasons, finishing with 405 tackles, fifth-best on UA’s career list. He had 14 tackles for a loss in each of his final two seasons.
Bell twice had 21 tackles in a game — against Washington and Arizona State in 1998.
Life after college: The Seattle Seahawks selected Bell in the fourth round of the 2000 NFL draft, and he played in 45 games over the next three seasons, mostly as a reserve, making 86 tackles. Cut during 2003 camp, Bell spent that season as a volunteer assistant coach at Tucson Sunnyside High, which won the state Class 4A championship.
Bell signed on in January 2004 to be the defensive graduate assistant on Mike Stoops’ first staff at Arizona, but another NFL opportunity came calling with the Houston Texans in March. Bell’s NFL career ended after he was placed on injured reserve after suffering an injury in a preseason game.
Bell resumed his coaching career, and he’s entering his third season as head coach at Eager Round Valley High, a St. John’s rival.
In partnership with the Arizona Republic, we are counting down the top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history. Leave your top 10 at AG’s Wildcat Report on Facebook, and check out azcentral.com for the countdown of ASU’s Top 50 football players.
No. 50 — LaMonte Hunley
No. 49 — Hubie Oliver
No. 48 — Rob Gronkowski
No. 47 — Jim Donarski
No. 46 — Ontiwaun Carter
No. 45 — Steve McLaughlin
No. 44 — John Fina
No. 43 — Glenn Parker
No. 42 — Bobby Lee Thompson