STARKVILLE – On Thursday night everyone from Dan Mullen to Mike Slive and Larry Templeton converged on the Mississippi State campus to grieve and celebrate the life of Nick Bell.
“This week has been one of the most difficult weeks I’ve ever been through,” a visibly emotional Mullen said. “The strongest emotion there is, is love. When you feel the love that I felt and our team felt for Nick, that can overwhelm you.”
Bell was a 20-year-old redshirt sophomore defensive end for the Bulldogs who played significantly in each of the first four games of the 2010 season, even starting in two. It was after those four games when Bell found out he had a malignant brain tumor, a form of skin cancer.
He had the mass removed, and his outlook was promising. Bell even stood on the sidelines with his teammates for MSU’s homecoming against UAB on Oct. 23. However, the cancer returned, and despite emergency surgery on Monday, Bell lost his short but harsh battle and passed away Tuesday afternoon.
Along with Mullen, Bell’s former teammates and roommates Kendrick Cook, a tight end, and safety Charles Mitchell shared stories about their time with Bell. Cook and Bell were in the same recruiting class for MSU, and Cook recounted the story of meeting his future roommate on a trip to Starkville.
“I walked in the recruiting room and saw this guy twice my size,” Cook said. “I had no idea who he was. I said, ‘Who are you?’ He said, ‘I’m Nick Bell.’”
Hundreds packed the standing-room-only Lee Hall auditorium to honor Bell. The service included a montage of pictures and videos from Bell’s life both on and off the field. At times, the video seemed like a highlight reel, particularly when the crowd erupted in applause after a clip of Bell sacking a certain Florida quarterback.
In addition to the SEC Commissioner, university students, faculty and alumni came to honor Bell, as well as many others from around the area and even across the Southeast.
Mitchell talked about Bell being one of the most humble and competitive people he knew, sharing stories about wrestling with other teammates and, “seeing who could slam who.”
Both Cook and Mitchell said Bell never let on how much pain he was going through, and it was not because he was embarrassed.
“He didn’t tell me about it, because he didn’t want me worrying about him,” Mitchell said. “He wasn’t selfish. He only cared about others.”
Mullen spoke at length about chasing dreams and the joyful, humble person Bell was.
“He was living his dream, that his mom shared with me, of being a football player,” Mullen said. “Nick Bell was an amazing young man, always smiling. He had a smile that could light up a room.”
Bob Carskadon/Special to the Journal