Bell slowing things down

David W. Butler (Matthews, NC) standout linebacker Hawatha Bell is one of the top defensive prospects in the Tar Heel State's Class of 2009, and recently caught up with the hard-hitting linebacker to talk the latest in his recruitment. Read inside for all the details.

Bell, who measures in at a solid 6'1" and 230 pounds, recently had a strong showing at the Matthews, NC Shrine Bowl combine. The athletic linebacker posted a 4.48 second forty yard dash, which was best among the linebackers in attendance. He also recorded an impressive 32.6 inch vertical leap and did 23 reps of 185 on the bench press.

According to Bell, it was no coincidence that he had such a strong showing at the combine, and he believes college coaches will recruit him even harder as a result of his performance.

"I just wanted to go out there and not only show that I can play on the football field, but also show what I can do on the track and agility-wise. Basically, starting five days before the combine I made sure I was eating right and stretching. I made sure I was well prepared for the combine so I could show what I can do," said Bell. "Some college coaches have come up to me and said they saw my stats from the combine and that they were impressed. I think that's going to make schools recruit me even harder."

Bell, who is ranked by as the no. 26 middle linebacker prospect in America this recruiting year, has already accumulated an impressive list of offers, with tenders from South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Illinois, Miami, Maryland, North Carolina, Duke and East Carolina.

The Tar Heel State standout has openly favored South Carolina for several months after attending USC's junior day in early February, and he's even considered making an early commitment to the Gamecocks. However, he has now decided to slow the recruiting process down and evaluate all of his options before coming to a final decision.

"I've been thinking about South Carolina a lot because that's the only school I've been to, but I talked to my coach and he said I need to slow things down and enjoy my recruitment process. I'm just going to take things one day at a time and enjoy what I have," he said. "Right now I have no favorites. I'm cleaning my slate, and I'm just going to go ahead and visit all the schools."

Bell, who said he talks frequently with South Carolina commitment Chris Payne, said even though he's slowing things down recruiting-wise, he still has a very positive impression of what the Gamecocks have to offer.

"I really like the environment. When I went down there I really felt comfortable. I just felt like I was at home. I feel like I knew everybody, and it felt like it was the place for me. I just want to see what else is out there before making a commitment."

With former teammates at both UNC and Virginia Tech, Bell plans to make unofficial visits to those campuses as well as N.C. State in the coming months, although he is still working on scheduling those trips.

"My running back Ryan Houston is going to UNC, and he's making me look deeper into them to see what caught his eye about them. I also have some former teammates at Virginia Tech. I'm going to visit UNC, N.C. State, and Virginia Tech since I've been told they are nice places to go to. I'm also planning to go down to South Carolina again soon."

Although an early commitment is out of the question now, Bell does have an idea of when he'd like to make a final decision on his college choice as well as what factors he'll be looking for in a school.

"Hopefully I'll (make a decision) during the football season, probably October or November," he noted. " I'm really going to look at the academics and the fact that the school I end up choosing can get me to where I want to be - the NFL. Every football player that plays a down in college, their mindset is to make it to the NFL. That's my mindset. Whatever school I go to is going to be because they can help me get there."

Bell, who racked up 125 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries in his junior season, closed by describing what type of linebacker he is on the gridiron.

"I'm a full breed linebacker. I'm a person that you look at and you can already tell that I'm a linebacker. When I go to college, I might not have to put as much weight on at linebacker because I'm already a linebacker, and I have the speed, agility, and quickness to get to the ball. I just call myself a full breed linebacker."

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