Chris Bell Sr. along with his wife, Ursula, they are what you would call typical parents. Caring, watchful, sometimes suspicious and always careful, but as with any good parents, always with the best interests of their child in mind.
Well, when that child happens to be one of the more popular wide receivers in the country, all those wonderful things that are just part of the parenting job, they take on an even great significance.
At some points already during the
recruiting, the elder
"We are very family oriented and we just don't deal with people wanting to speak to our son without speaking to his mother and father first."
As recruiting has become more popular, the attention from media outlets along with the recruiting services has increased exponentially. That increased attention has put parents like the Bells in the position where they are as much the protector as they are the bastion of objectivity for their child.
Chris Sr., while he will gladly serve as a go-between for interested parties and his son, he'll be the first to tell you that it's not him you need to be wary of if your intentions aren't totally sincere. "Hey, I'm easy," he said. "I'm the academic guy, but his mom, she's going to want to know where he's going to eat, how many times they are going to feed him and all that stuff."
"They (the schools) are going to go through the ringer. It's not going to be a wham, bam and thank you ma'am kind of thing to us. It's going to be a very difficult process."
You really don't need to ask why a parent would be so protective of their child. If you are asking that, you probably don't have children of your own. Well, Mrs. Bell has four children, including Chris, who is the eldest of an entire group of boys.
When it comes to one, two or all of them, if a coach wants to recruit them, she's got a few questions to ask, leading with the one that she feels matters most:
"How concerned are you with my son, whether he's playing football or not?" she said. "I know you are going to be in his face during football season, but are you going to be in his face when you aren't playing?"
It's a pretty simple question, but if you are a coach, you had better come up with a pretty good answer or the conversation with Mrs. Bell is going to last not much longer than it took her to ask the question in the first place.
However, as Al Pacino said in "Scent of a Woman", she's just getting warmed up.
After all, it's ok to her if you say and do the right things, but exactly how often you do them is going to play a large part as well. "Due to the fact that I can't visit all the schools, my one concern is how often they come to talk to Chris, how we're doing with getting Chris associated with getting to know the schools and when and if they have an opportunity to call us, do they."
"I'm also concerned with not just whether they are happy about Chris going to their school, but how happy we are as a family, because we don't make a decision unless it's a family decision."
Probably the one thing that is going to make coaches very honest in their recruiting of young Chris is the fact that Chris's mother has another very specific request. She's not interested in seeing brochures, media guides, pictures of the stadium or any of that stuff she can basically see of the internet.
No, she wants to see someone's
face. So much so, she actually got a coach from quite a distance away to show up
to the school just so she could see him for herself. "Coach Elmassian from
"So, he came to the school and I got to see him and see for myself the person that could be in my son's face, because if I can't talk to him right now, I want to know what you look like, at least."
The example of the Huskers has
been unique enough to put them in the same company with
"They all say the same thing," Mrs. Bell said. "It's like they all go to the same class or something. It's like I am waiting for something to stand out to the point I am going to be ok with him going wherever he goes."
"And, right now, Virginia and Nebraska have been very good with the fact of showing me that they care as much for what he's doing off the field as on the field."
Are you starting to get the point? Mom is tough.
Coaches will make it through the parents eventually. Perhaps it won't be as impressively as either the Huskers or the Cavaliers, but at some point, they will be able to talk to Chris himself. The thing is, the value system that is so entrenched with the parents, you'll find doesn't waiver in the least even when it dips down a generation.
Chris is very much his parents' child. "What a lot of coaches don't know is, I will be looking at the same things my mom and dad would look at," Chris said. "I look at how much they mention their school other than football. I don't know if I want to go to the NFL or not. I may just want to go to the business side of things and if they don't talk about anything but football, that turns me off of them a little bit, because I want to know about the school."
The schools that the Chris Jr. and his family are probably concentrating on the most right now are Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, LSU, and Arizona. Those, of course, being the schools that have offered Chris in writing.
With that list, you are most definitely going to see a lot more join that group.
Chris is humble about the attention, but the 6 foot, 3 inch wideout will also tell you that while he's grateful for the attention, it's not necessarily been a major surprise. "I've been playing football since before I was even supposed to play, like when I was around four," he said. "I don't mean that to sound arrogant or anything, but football to me is like brushing my teeth in the morning. It's just what I know."
As a junior, Chris caught 53
balls for approx. 700 yards, scoring 13 times. And, at the safety position,
His size along with his 4.4 speed make him an obvious recruit, even if it's just as an athlete, but it will most definitely be Chris as a wide receiver and one of the key traits for him is something that you equate to guys that play on the other side of the ball.
Yeah, you have to have an attitude to play wideout, because it's not like defensive players aren't waiting for you to go up high to catch a ball and hit you just right when you are coming down. Oh, and there is of course, the dreaded middle of the field. Chris's size makes him formidable, but even he knows that there are times when someone bigger than you is going to try and take you out right when you are catching the ball.
The thing is, you still have to catch the ball.
"A hit is a hit and the middle is the middle," he said. "You know when you are in there, you are going to be between some kind of linebacker. You just have to know how to man up and take the hit."
"I mean, you are going to get hit anyway, so you might as well catch the ball. You can't score all the time."
Chris will be looking to do that as much as can this year, though, and there's little doubt that defenses will be poised to stop him and his impressive ability.
His mom, however, she's proud of her son's ability, but if there ever comes a time when the humble Chris Jr. starts getting a little less-so, Mrs. Bell is there put reality firmly back into play. "You aren't anything until your momma tell you," she said. "When I tell you that, you've done everything you were supposed to do."
"His dad is enjoying the football thing and making sure he get the academic stuff right, but I'm looking at it like ‘you are getting all this attention, but you still have a lot of work to do.'."
"You aren't anything yet."