Lions' RB issues opening door for Bell
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Joique Bell has been one of the NFL's most productive running backs over the last couple seasons.
Preseasons, that is.
Bell has done his share of bouncing around the league since leaving Wayne State, a Division II school in Detroit where he rushed for 2,084 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior in 2009.
Now he's back in Motown and making a favorable impression.
"He was running like a starting running back in the NFL," teammate Nate Burleson said of Bell's 89-yard rushing performance on 16 carries in last week's preseason opener against Cleveland.
That was certainly nice to hear, but Bell wants a chance to prove he's more than a Mr. August. Despite rushing for more than 400 yards in preseason games since 2010, Joique (pronounced "JOIK") has never gotten a carry during the regular season.
He's hoping that first one comes with the team from his home state.
"To grow up watching the Lions, going to school right down the street, working for the Lions when I was in college … it's a dream come true," said Bell, a 5-foot-11, 220-pound power back.
He then went one step further.
"To be part of this team when we win our first Super Bowl, it's going to be amazing," Bell said.
The uncertainty at the running back position has given Bell a chance to at least open the season on the Lions' 53-man roster. Jahvid Best (post-concussion issues) remains out indefinitely and isn't expected to play until midseason at the earliest, if at all.
Mikel Leshoure, coming off surgery for a torn Achilles' tendon, is currently hampered by a hamstring injury. He also is suspended for the first two regular-season games because of two offseason marijuana arrests.
Kevin Smith is the Lions' No. 1 running back right now, but it leaves Bell in the mix, right behind Stefan Logan and Keiland Williams.
Bell is also trying to nail down a job with his efforts on special teams. His motivation to make it with the Lions is powerful in many ways.
Bell, 26, said his late brother-in-law, former FBI agent Paul Sorce, was a major influence on his football career.
Sorce was killed on duty in 2009 when he was involved in an automobile accident while doing surveillance on a suspect in Harper Woods, Mich.
"He was a big-time Lions fan," Bell said. "He was a big part of me in college, always taking me under his wing. He looked after me. He would be ecstatic right now. He would be so proud. I can't even explain how much he wanted me to be successful.
"I'm doing this not only for me but also in memory of him."
Bell still laughs whenever he thinks back a few years to when he and Sorce were watching a Minnesota Vikings game together on television.
"Adrian Peterson had just made an amazing run," Bell said. "I looked at him and asked, ‘Paul, you think I'll ever be that good?'
"He looked at me and said, ‘You know what? … (pause) … Nah.'
"It was hilarious."
Bell said Sorce got him a part-time job working security with the Lions. Bell ran into a scout one day and asked whether a player realistically could go from Wayne State to the NFL.
"The scout looked me in my eyes and told me, ‘Hey, if you have talent, they'll find you,'" Bell said.
"That's all I needed to hear. That's when I started my grind."
Bell calls going to Wayne State "the best decision I didn't make."
That's because his mother made it for him.
Most schools that recruited Bell out of Benton Harbor (Mich.) High were planning to move him to defense. He wanted to be a running back.
Bell admits he hadn't even heard of Wayne State before he ran into some of the coaches while attending a summer football camp at the University of Michigan. Bell said he went up and started talking to one of the Wayne State assistants as part of a joke for his high-school teammates.
"I've been doing a lot of research on you guys,'" Bell said he told the coach, tongue-in-cheek.
Wayne State eventually started recruiting him and totally convinced Bell's mother it was the best place for her son.
Bell even got tricked by her into signing his official letter-of-intent. He was still considering other schools such as Grand Valley State and Toledo.
But his mom told him early one morning, while he was still half asleep, to sign a piece of paper.
Later on, she informed him she was going to fax his letter-of-intent over to Wayne State.
"I said, 'What? I didn't sign a letter of intent,'" Bell recalled.
"She said, ‘You signed it this morning.'
"It worked out for the best as you can tell. I never looked back."
Bell had a whirlwind first year in the NFL in 2010, traveling between four teams. Whenever one team would put him on its practice squad, another would move in and sign him away.
He ended up playing on special teams in three regular-season games with Philadelphia and five with Indianapolis (one tackle) during that rookie year.
Most of last season was spent on New Orleans' practice squad before the Lions signed him away on Dec. 26.
Bell is hoping to find a more permanent home one of these days. For him, nothing would be better than to make it Detroit again.