One year ago Bello was living on another continent, half around the world. Then in the fall he moved from his native Uyo, Nigeria to Montverde, Fla. where he now attends the Montverde Academy.
Bello never played the game of American football. But that all changed once he got settled at his new home in central Florida. This past season the 6-foot-6, 300-pounder from Africa played in six games at offensive tackle.
Bello received his first scholarship offer after the season from Missouri. Amazingly, Florida State, Florida, Alabama, South Florida, Tennessee, USC, Miami, Georgiaand others have all offered him since. Don’t be surprised if Bello is sitting on 40 plus offers with the May Evaluation Period starting yesterday, lasting through the end of next month. (This is the time when college assistant coaches can hit the road recruiting.)
This has all happened for Bello after playing a grand total of 24 quarters of football.
“It’s just surreal, amazing,” said Brian Treweek, Montverde Academy’s coach. “I have never seen anything like this whatsoever.”
Bello moved to the States in September and quickly caught on to the game. After all, this is a big kid with great athletic ability.
“It was kind of difficult, adjusting to life here and playing a new sport,” Bello said. “But everything started to get easier and easier for me. American football was not too hard. I just fought through it, trying to learn whatever I could. Mentally it was harder.”
Treweek is almost speechless when talking about Bello, who happens to be one of Florida’s hottest prospects in 2015 class despite his inexperience. Still, Bello is a raw talent who possess all the tools you look for at offensive tackle.
“I think I knew I had something special the minute he got here,” Treweek said. “He has a tremendous work ethic and is very good in the weight room. He has size and he has great feet. It’s natural for him to play with great leverage. He plays against guys smaller than him and he can bend and get underneath them. He plays hard and through the whistle. This kid is just a great athlete. He’s a specimen.”
At the end of the day Bello will be one of those guys that will likely be able to name his school. Whatever program gets his signature come national signing day in February will inherit a blank slate and a prospect that they can build and mold into the prototype left tackle.
“He’s as good as I have ever seen,” Treweek said. “Bello may have the best upside of anyone because he’s so raw and his ceiling is so ridiculously high. There is no telling how good he can become. He’s got all the talent in the world. He’s a guy that will go to college with really no bad habits because he hasn’t played the game.”
Bello has played other sports, including boxing. Boxing taught Bello how to use his hands. So the transition to the gridiron was made a little easier because of the time he put in the ring.
“Absolutely,” Treweek said. “That was his sport. He has a great punch. I mean he can throw a punch that you just don’t see with these high school kids and he knows how to use his hands. He’s still raw in terms of technique and still has a lot of work to do. But Bello picks things up quickly and has come a very long way in a very short time.”
Another twist with Bello is the recruiting process in general. Think about this, he’s new to America with no love or loyalty to any one college football program. Bello knows no tradition and he doesn’t have any allegiance to the Seminoles, Gators or anyone outside the football crazed state of Florida. He didn’t grow up a fan of any one program because he was 6,000 miles away in Africa.
“I have visited the University of Florida and Florida State University,” Bello said. “I do not know my next visit. I like all the schools. I am just researching and trying to figure things out.”
Every so often you do see a foreign born player move to the U.S. and become a blue chip recruit. The last notable was defensive end Francis Kallon (Lawrenceville, Ga./Central Gwinnett). He moved to metro-Atlanta after growing up in England playing rugby and soccer. The spring before his senior season he went out for football and proceeded to absolutely blow up. He signed with Georgia Tech and is currently a red-shirt sophomore for the Yellow Jackets.
The unknown for Bello is fascinating as well as scary. Just put yourself in his shoes for a moment. You move to a new country and become this football star. The who’s who of college football court you to play and attend their university. Sure it’s only April but it has to be overwhelming.
“He has a great support system here,” Treweek said. “Walter Banks is his offensive line coach and he had some big time kids at Groveland (Fla.) South Lake (Jeff Demps, Jonotthan Harrison). We are doing everything we can to help Bello.”
I told you this was a great story and it’s not even close to being finalized. For Bello, he’s still in the first chapter.