Bell Toils for UT

When the Volunteers got a commitment from Antonio Bell on May Day, they didn't just land a blue chip wide receiver prospect they got a blue collar worker with true blue dedication.

Consider his schedule: Bell is a starting guard on the Mainland High School basketball team. He's starts at wide receiver, free safety and as a return specialist on the football team. Plus he competes on the track team in the long jump, high jump, triple jump and 4X100 relay.

"After football I have track and then it's right back in football.," he said. "I play basketball too. I'm a two guard. I have a pretty good shot." In his spare time he hits the weights and the books. From all indications the 6-foot-1, 176-pound all-purpose athlete does very well at both tasks. He carries a 3.1 GPA and performs six reps with 205 pounds on the bench press and squats 385 pounds. He also owns a 35-inch vertical leap and has run a personal best 4.45 time in the 40, and he consistently runs a 4.5 flat.

He is a prospect with a lot to offer, and so, it comes as no surprise that he had a lot of offers. Among that list is Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia and Florida International. He was also being seriously pursued by Florida, Florida State and Alabama. Undoubtedly, he will receive other offers, but he's confident in his decision to sign with Tennessee, which was the first school to offer him in the late summer of 2006.

"The reason I committed early is because I like the coaches at Tennessee," he told IT on Wednesday. "I like Coach (Matt) Luke. He's real cool, an up front person. With some people you can tell when they're telling stories like ‘oh yeah you're going to come in and start right away.' Coach Luke said I'd have to work hard but if I did I could play. He knows I can play."

As a junior Bell had 43 receptions for 874 yards and four touchdowns. Besides speed and athleticism, Bell is an accomplished route runner with sure hands, especially in traffic. He also has a lot of confidence and liked what he saw of UT's depth chart at wide receiver. That was a factor in the Vols favor in what was shaping up as a potential recruiting showdown with Florida for his services. Bell confesses to liking both of these SEC programs growing up.

"I looked and saw all the other people they (Gators) offered and they offered a lot of other receivers," he explained. "Tennessee hadn't offered a lot and they want me to play receiver."

Bell has been impressed with the attention he receives from UT, and was pleased to have had coach Luke visit his high school in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Wednesday.

"I talked to him today at our school," he said. "We had (football) practice but he was just there during school. We have our spring game on Friday."

After spring practice is concluded Bell plans to dedicate himself to training in preparation for his senior season at Mainland and his freshman season at Tennessee.

"I run good routes but I want to get my speed down more," said Bell, who is called Larry Fitzgerald by his Mainland teammates because of his resemblance to the Arizona Cardinal All-Pro widelout. "I need to put on more weight and get stronger."

Antonio Bell said he "loves Tennessee's offense" and is looking forward to seeing the campus for the first time next month

. "I'm going there in June to the senior camp," he said. "It feels good to have the decision out of the way." Chances are he'll feel even better after he sees his future home.

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