Steven M. Sipple: Bell gleans positives from recent adversity

2013-09-29T23:45:00Z 2013-09-30T01:09:08Z Steven M. Sipple: Bell gleans positives from recent adversityBy STEVEN M. SIPPLE / Lincoln Journal Star

Bye weeks can be beautiful for virtually everyone.

A time to rest and heal.

A time to reflect.

Yeah, just what Kenny Bell needed — two weeks to ponder the two potential touchdown passes he dropped and the fumble he surrendered Sept. 21 against South Dakota State.

His fumble occurred deep in SDSU territory.

"I had the ball in the wrong arm and I wasn't protecting it," he said last week. "We drill it over and over, and it's frustrating. It's kept me awake a couple nights."

Credit Bell for his approach to adversity. He doesn't run from it; he learns from it. To wit: He said he has watched replay video "a million times" of his dropped pass on what would have been a 42-yard touchdown reception from Tommy Armstrong.

That drop was especially grating.

"Yeah, just real frustrating," said the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Bell, who injured his shoulder on the play.

He said the injury isn't serious.

One can bet Bell will be extremely motivated Saturday, when Nebraska (3-1) returns to the playing field for an 11 a.m. home game against Illinois (3-1), the Big Ten opener for both teams.

Bell leads Nebraska with 18 receptions (for 190 yards and two touchdowns). Senior Quincy Enunwa is next with 17 catches (for 202 yards and five TDs). They also ranked 1-2 in receptions last season.

Bell thinks he should have at least 20 receptions this year, and at least one additional touchdown. On the long pass into the end zone, he said, "I had control of the ball, hit the ground, my shoulder got hurt, (and) I just let go of it."

It seems like a moment a player might want to forget completely, as opposed to watching it "a million times."

"It depends on how you look at it," Bell said. "If you're mentally weak enough to let it bother you that much, to the point that you don't get better from it, then it's not advantageous at all.

"If you can remember mistakes and the coaching you get and remember that feeling and you don't want it again, there's definitely positives to be had out of failing."

Bottom line, failure can be a wonderful motivator.

"For me, absolutely, it's very motivational," Bell said.

He played the South Dakota State game during what has been a somewhat tumultuous period in his life. He is from Boulder, Colo., which earlier this month endured floods that rocked much of the state, killing at least eight people and damaging or destroying as many as 2,000 homes.

His family's home suffered water damage, but nothing serious, he said. However, the fact so many friends and family are involved "is eating at me," Bell said. He said he uses the adversity as motivation and that the NU football program serves as a sanctuary of sorts.

But even the sanctuary has experienced tumult.

Bell said he felt angry in the wake of the Sept. 16 release (by Deadspin) of secret audio in which Nebraska coach Bo Pelini could be heard ranting about Husker fans and some members of the media. The storm passed quickly, but had an obvious impact.

"I love him like a father," Bell said of Pelini. "He's changed my life. He's done things that have literally changed my life and have changed who I've become as a man.

"I couldn't thank him enough for the things he's done for me," Bell said. "To see him be attacked just sucks, the same way he feels when (his players are) attacked. He hates it. It angers him. It truly bothers him, the way it truly bothers us."

Bell keeps pushing. He seems tough-minded and resilient, in addition to being very athletic. Husker fans have seen his raw toughness and athleticism when he returns kickoffs. He ranks 10th nationally with an average of 30.6 yards on eight returns.

He catches the kickoffs and explodes up the field, seemingly with a kamikaze mentality, he said.

He credits his blockers, saying, "The guys up front are doing a way better job. No offense to the guys last year, but the guys that we have on this unit care a lot and they want to be the best, and that's what we're working towards."

What is Bell's mentality once he catches a kickoff?

"Run," he said. "Run as fast as you can, as hard as you can. I got that from Ameer (Abdullah). That's who I idolize as far as kickoff return. He's a great returner."

Abdullah, a junior running back, has returned both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns during his career. Bell feels his time is coming.

"We are that close," he said. "We'll get one. We'll get one."

And maybe then he can forget his mistakes, if only for a moment.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or

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About the writer

Steven M. Sipple | Lincoln Journal Star

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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