ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- There were times Joique Bell would come to the Detroit Lions' practice facility on his off days, back when he worked as a security guard during training camp, and stare at what he saw on the field.
Even then, he knew he wanted to eventually play for the Lions. Even then, he kept telling himself that one day, he might get his chance. His shot to show that he could belong in the NFL. He was a Division II player at Wayne State, a school that doesn't typically produce NFL players.
Yet Bell said Wednesday he still believed as he viewed practice during breaks from his Lions training camp security duty.
“I would just sit down and watch in awe,” Bell said Wednesday afternoon. “And say ‘One day. One day.’
“That ‘one day’ finally came.”
Bell’s one day, his day of validation and security, his day of showing he belonged in the NFL on a permanent basis, officially came Wednesday, when he signed a contract that will keep him in Detroit for the next three seasons and will pay him a little more than $9 million.
This had been Bell’s plan all along, well before he was an actual player on the Lions. He remembered after he finished his career at Wayne State that he told a local reporter one day he would be with the club. Wasn't sure when. Wasn't sure how.
Only that it would happen.
Then he bounced around from team to team in the NFL, often being cut, often sent to the practice squad. Despite the lack of actual playing time and a 53-man roster spot, teams kept him around and told him he could one day be of value to a team.
Then it came. He was brought in by the Lions in late 2011. He didn't play a game that season, but in 2012 he received his first chance, rushing 82 times for 414 yards and three touchdowns.
A season later, in 2013, he had a breakout year -- carrying the ball 166 times for 650 yards and eight touchdowns in a two-back system with Reggie Bush. It set up his chance at staying with Detroit and receiving the contract he always dreamed about in the city he grew up in; the city that gave him a shot to even reach the NFL both in college and then in the actual league.
“I went to a school yesterday and a kid asked me why do you love Detroit,” Bell said. “I go, ‘I love Detroit because Detroit loves me.’ Flat out.
“Like I said, I came here as an 18-year-old not knowing what to expect and now, nine years later, I’m signing the biggest deal of my life. So many emotions.”
Bell had been campaigning for this deal since the end of the season, when he said he wanted to remain in Detroit long term. His bosses, general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand, had also said they wanted Bell with the Lions long term.
So the actual negotiations took, in Bell’s estimation, about two weeks before they settled on a number he believed both sides felt was fair. And that was it. Everything he worked for temporarily culminated with one agreement and one signature.
And now, one more goal.
“This is more than football. This is more than a game, more than a paycheck,” Bell said. “Like I said, look at the teams around the league and Detroit is one of two or three teams that has never won a Super Bowl. Ever.
“I want to bring that here. I want to bring that Lombardi here to Detroit. It’s been long overdue. We've earned it. We've worked for it.”