Pro Bowl Watch: Yeremiah Bell

January, 29, 2010
1/29/10
1:10
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Regardless of what fans or players or Bill Polian think about this year's bastardized Pro Bowl, it's no less meaningful to Miami Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell.

Bell
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireYeremiah Getting to the Pro Bowl was easier for Yeremiah Bell than getting to the NFL.
Bell was added to the AFC roster because of two injuries and a Super Bowl participant not being able to play. Still, Bell acknowledges that the words "Pro Bowler" will appear in the first sentence of his obituary.

"For me to be where I'm at today and playing in the Pro Bowl," Bell said, "it's something I'm very proud of."

If you think Bell shouldn't be in the Pro Bowl, you're right. The fact he's in the NFL at all is astonishing.

"I often reflect on my past just for motivation," Bell said. "It could've gone wrong for me so many times."

Bell didn't receive a single scholarship offer out of high school and didn't have enough money to enroll in college and walk on a team. He went to work at a Kentucky steel mill for $6.50 an hour. He heaved slabs of steel that weighed nearly 100 pounds.

Football was a dream he lived out through some friends who played at Eastern Kentucky. He would tune in to "The Roy Kidd Show" every Sunday to see if his buddies made the highlights or the coach would talk about them.

Bell said the same thoughts ran through his head every time he watched: "I could do this. I could go back out there. I can play football. What am I going to do with the rest of my life but work?"

Two years removed from high school, Bell enrolled at Eastern Kentucky and became a star. But his career nearly was derailed twice.

On the second day of two-a-day practices his sophomore season, he experienced full body cramps that landed him in the hospital for three days. Scared and confused, he called Kidd and informed him he was quitting. Kidd tried to talk him out of it but couldn't. Kidd told Bell he would give him a week to reconsider.

"Luckily, I did change my mind and he left that door open for me," Bell said. "He could've let me go, and that would have been the end of it."

Bell seemed like he was jockeying for draft position heading into his senior season. Scouts had noticed a gem. He was a first-team All-American and led the Ohio Valley Conference in interceptions as a junior. In a game against Eastern Illinois and future Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, Bell recorded 10 tackles, two interceptions, a sack, a forced fumble and a recovery.

Before Bell's senior season, he hurt his knee while playing a pickup basketball game. The injury dashed his final year and rendered him a draft-day question mark.

"It could've went so many ways, so many different times," Bell said.

The Dolphins drafted him in the sixth round in 2003. Four months later, they waived him. Nobody picked him up. The Dolphins signed him to their practice squad and four games into the season was placed on injured reserve.

By 2006, Bell had fought his way into the lineup. He started 11 games and recorded 65 tackles with a pair of sacks. Then another setback: He blew out his Achilles in the 2007 opener.

Bell has been the Dolphins' leading tackler the past two seasons. He owns the franchise record with 7.5 career sacks by a defensive back.

And whether somebody wants to list the provisions of his honor and name the players who backed out (Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd and Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu are hurt and Antoine Bethea is in the Super Bowl), Bell will forever be known as a Pro Bowl safety.

"I think guys like the old format, where you play it a week after the Super Bowl," Bell said. "I think that's the way it should be. But I don't look at it as 'Oh, I got in because somebody else.' I just look at it as a great opportunity to enjoy the whole experience.

"I'm a Pro Bowler."

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