S enior receiver Kenny Bell quit the team Tuesday following a handful of Tweets indicating a need to focus on his children. Then later in the day at his press conference, Alabama head coach Nick Saban said Bell would return Wednesday following what he called a ‘personal day’ to iron out some personal things in his life.
Bell apparently agreed.
“He came and we had a discussion,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban explained. “There were some personal things he had to iron out and I think he talked to his family about it. I talked to his mom. And we talked again today.
“I want Kenny to be happy. I would love for him to be a part of the team if he can be happy doing that relative to any other personal responsibilities that he has.”
Bell was a surprise, signing day commitment to Alabama in 2009 from Rayville, Louisiana in a time LSU had an even firmer grip on the Red Stick state than they do now. He redshirted at a freshman, played sparingly in 2010, then saw expanded roles in 2011 and 2012, catching 17 passes each of the past two seasons with 255 and 431 yards per, respectively.
Bell’s career path took a turn however after a broken leg sustained against Auburn in last year’s 49-0 blowout. He would miss the season’s final two, biggest games in the SEC Championship and BCS title game. Following an offseason of rehabilitation, he was hopeful for this his final season at the Capstone.
“They put me through all this good rehab to get my legs 100 percent and get me where I had to be,” Bell said in an interview over the summer. “Rehab’s not all that fun, but in order for me to get out here on the field with my teammates and have a stellar senior season, I took it upon and worked hard in the training room.”
Bell was targeted with an overthrown deep ball in last Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech, but did not catch a pass. He is listed as the co-starter with fellow senior Kevin Norwood at Z receiver.
For the common fan, who lives, breathes and sleeps Alabama football, thinking about getting to play at Alabama is a dream, and the very idea a player would want to step away is the furthest thing from one’s mind.
College football anywhere, even at Auburn, is a grind. It’s hard work with hour upon hour spent in the weight room, in conditioning, at practice, in the film room, in meetings, at functions…and oh yeah, in class. Then throw in an extensive injury rehabilitation as a senior, and it can be a bit much.
Then there’s college football at Alabama, where the rare air Alabama fans are breathing comes at the expense of young men like Bell who are paying the price. There are tons of personal benefits to their work, but pressures that come with it.
Then factor in that Bell is a father to two children. Any father reading this knows the responsibility you feel to provide for your kids, and the guilt you feel when time spent away isn’t time that’s producing an earning to support them. College football is a full-time job…I know. But a full time job that the NCAA has seen to it that you can’t be paid for, unless your last name is Newton or Manziel.
We forget as fans these young men are, well, young men, facing pressures most have never imagined. And for some, facing those pressures while having children at young ages before they’re able to fully support them.
Who knows what’s going on inside Bell’s heart. He received his bachelor’s degree last December, so that part of his life is intact, with an education to fall back on. And to his credit, Bell is making headlines for all the right reasons…trying to make grown man decisions for his family…rather than for sucker punching a fellow student (LSU’s Jeremy Hill) or the latest immature endeavor for which Johnny Manziel captures our attention.