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Thursday, May 27, 2010
On the radar: Joique Bell


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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Rookie running back Joique Bell has been off the radar his whole life.

Joique Bell
Joique Bell chose to sign with Buffalo after receiving offers from six teams.
"It's always motivating me," Bell told me after Buffalo Bills practice Wednesday. "I was overlooked from high school, coming out of college. I just want to get a series in and show my talent."

Your eye might skip over Bell when scanning the Bills' roster for running backs, unless you're trying to figure out how to pronounce his first name (it's Joyk). He's on a team with two 1,000-yard rushers (Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch) and the ninth overall 2010 draft pick  (C.J. Spiller).

But when the final roster is selected in early September, Bell has a decent chance to be on it. He's probably fourth on the depth chart now. Uncertainty surrounding Lynch's status could elevate Bell quickly.

"As long as I get a shot, that's all I wanted," Bell said. "Now it's up to me.

"I'm not getting caught up in the numbers or thinking 'They're about to cut this or that.' Regardless of whether you [speculate] or not, they're going to cut you if they want to. So I'm going to come out here and play my butt off every day and see where that takes me."

Circumstances kept him from being recruited like he wanted out of Benton Harbor, Mich. An injury to his high school quarterback forced Bell to fill in his senior year. Colleges didn't see him as a running back. Michigan and Michigan State projected him at safety. So he went to Detroit's Division II Wayne State where he could get the touches he craved.

Bell kept Division II record book editors busy. He rushed for 6,728 yards (eighth in NCAA history) and 88 touchdowns. As a senior, he won the Harlon Hill Trophy as Division II's best player. He ran for 2,084 yards and 29 touchdowns, while adding 293 receiving yards.

All of that -- against such schools as Ferris State, Hillsdale and Tiffin -- wasn't enough to get him drafted. The NFL invited him to its scouting combine. Despite a 40-yard dash time in the 4.6 range, he thought he might get drafted as high as the fourth round, but no team selected him.

Teams buzzed after the draft, trying to sign him as a free agent. He said he received six offers and nearly signed with the New England Patriots, but he and agent Manvel Trice thought the Bills provided the best opportunity.

"Obviously, I'm not too far under the radar because an NFL team has picked me up," Bell said. "That's a blessing."