By Jim Schutze
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After a promising freshman year at SMU, Bell was slated for significant playing time at cornerback in 2009. After missing the season opener with swine flu, on September 12 he met Alabama-Birmingham fullback Justin Brooks (who outweighs him by 45 pounds) in a goal-line collision.
"He hit me so hard I don't remember falling to the ground," Bell recalled.
Though he said last week that he believes he suffered a concussion on that play, Bell was cleared to stay in the game and on SMU's next defensive series he rushed UAB quarterback Joe Webb on a blitz. Just as Bell launched himself into the air toward Webb, Brooks again intervened. The violent but legal block knocked Bell out before he hit the ground. He was transported by ambulance to a Birmingham hospital.
"I remember waking up, not having feeling in my arms and being real dizzy," Bell said. "I didn't even know I was in an ambulance."
Bell missed the following week's game but, after CT scans returned to normal, he was cleared to play October 3 against TCU. On his first play, Bell, Frogs receiver Ryan Christian and the ball arrived at the same point at the same time. The collision knocked out both players, and ended Bell's career.
"I wanted to go back in, but then I was all dizzy and my neck hurt and I had a headache," Bell said. "The coaches hid my helmet anyway."
In essence, Bell suffered three concussions in the span of five plays. Discretion, as if we need reminding, should always trump valor.
"Giving up football is the hardest thing I've ever done," Bell said. "I have trouble even talking about it. But I've got to consider the rest of my life. If the doctors told me tomorrow I could go back out there without risk I'd go in a second. But I'm doing the right thing."
Bell seems at peace with his future.
Now if he could just get a good night's sleep.
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