QB Bell fulfills dream at BaylorNov. 5, 2004
By MATT RICHARDS, sports writer
Sophomore quarterback Shawn Bell held his emotions in check all night.
He had held it together for 73 plays and nearly four hours of back-and-forth competition against the No. 16 Texas A&M University Aggies. It was on his 74th play from scrimmage that opened the emotional floodgates of this quiet, reserved leader.
"We had Dominique [Zeigler] one on one with a linebacker," Bell said. "He did a whip route. The outside wasn't there, so he went inside and got open. It was just a great play."
Bell streaked down the sidelines with tears gushing from his eyes and helmet in the air after the two-point conversion. He combed the sidelines in search of his childhood hero and football mentor.
Bell went in search of his dad -- China Spring High School head football Coach Mark Bell. The two embraced each other on the sidelines, with tears in their eyes. It was a moment forever etched into the minds of the Bell family.
"After the game, when I saw my dad, he was crying and I was crying," Bell said. "We gave each other a hug. It was a moment I've lived for all my life."
The victory was full of irony for the Bell family.
Before his son chose to don the green and gold, Mark Bell had been an ardent fan of his alma mater, Texas A&M. He wore his Texas A&M class ring with pride and taught all of his sons the Aggie traditions, including the famed Aggie War Hymn.
However, all the Aggie paraphernalia disappeared the day Bell committed to Baylor.
"As soon as I made my decision to come to Baylor, dad became a Bear with me," Bell said. "He's all about the Bears, and I'm all about beating Texas A&M."
It had been an arduous road to victory over his father's former team.
Bell grew up in tiny China Spring, a small country town about 15 miles outside of Waco. Living in a household with a coach as a father meant Bell lived and breathed football all day, every day. Football was the preferred topic of conversation around the dinner table, reviewed through countless private film sessions and dreamed about at night.
His football upbringing bred a dominant career at 3A China Spring High School. Bell threw for a record 8,437 career passing yards and 525 completions, putting him third all-time in Texas high school history. He also finished fourth in his class and served as his high school's Fellowship of Christian Athletes president.
It would seem on paper that Bell would be a Division-I recruiter's dream, but his small stature and under 200-pound frame kept most coaches away. Former Baylor University head Coach Kevin Steele was one of only a few who extended a scholarship offer. Bell jumped at the chance to place close to home.
From the second he showed up at Floyd Casey Stadium to the defeat of Texas A&M, the battle has been uphill for Bell. He has always been regarded as too small, too weak and too young to be a major contributor for the Bears. The fact that Baylor went out and picked up a junior college transfer in junior quarterback Dane King in the offseason could be seen as a lack of long-term confidence in Bell.
At the beginning of the season, Bell received a crushing setback. Head Coach Guy Morriss named King the starter for the season, despite a productive spring and two quality starts for Bell against opponents last season. At that point, it looked like Bell would take a back seat to King for the year.
Nevertheless, Bell kept his composure despite being denied the starting position. He remained upbeat during an offensive drought, served as a leader in the locker room and called the plays from the sideline with offensive coordinator Brent Pease.
Bell remained focused on the needs of the team, despite the adversity.
"He stayed into each game," Pease said. "Down on the sidelines, he always sees things. You know he's into the game. He's got the feel for the game."
After biding his time on the sidelines, Bell received the chance of a lifetime last Tuesday when he was named the starter against the Aggies.
King underwent season-ending surgery to his non-throwing hand, thrusting Bell into the starter role.
For Bell, it was a bittersweet opportunity.
"Dane was definitely positive (about the win)," Bell said. "I told him after the game, 'As much as I want to play, I wish you hadn't got hurt.' He deserves just as much credit as I do."
Bell elevated his game against the Aggies, completing 32 of 50 passes for 262 yards in his first start of the season and only the third of his career.
He rallied the team from 10 points down at halftime and found sophomore wide receiver Trent Shelton for a touchdown with 2:50 left in the fourth quarter, forcing overtime. His fourth touchdown of the night in overtime tied a school record.
Morriss had nothing but praise for Bell, but said he was not surprised that he raised his game when the heat was on. It was something Morriss said he had seen before.
"I think Shawn is the kind of kid that when the lights come on, he turns it on," Morriss said. "He's a money guy. That's his nature."
For Bell, it was a dream come true.
When Bell first met the coaching staff of Baylor, more than three years ago, they wanted to know what he hoped to achieve.
"I told them my dream was to beat Texas A&M," Bell said. "They said, 'Can you be more specific?' I said I wanted to beat them my sophomore year."
Bell is walking proof that dreams do come true for those who patiently wait.