Kenny Bell wanted to boast. He just had to do so carefully.
Oh, it’s great and everything that Bell witnessed his childhood friend put together a career game as a college sophomore: 229 totals yards, plus the game-clinching touchdown in his team’s biggest win of the season.
Problem was, Bell had too good of a view — standing on the opposing sideline, watching the other team’s best offensive player pull the strings of an upset.
But even that awkwardness couldn’t keep a smile off Bell’s face after Kain Colter helped spark Northwestern to a 28-25 victory over Nebraska last season in Lincoln.
“I took it with a grain of salt, ‘Well, this stinks that we’re going to lose this game, but what an effort from a guy,’” said Bell, a redshirt sophomore Nebraska receiver.
“I mean, obviously, losing’s never good. It’s the same thing this Saturday: I want Kain to have the best game he can, but obviously, I want us to win. I want nothing but the best for him. I would never wish anything negative. I’d love to see him have a great game.”
Just, you know, not win this time.
Bell may have been the only person wearing red last November who knew Colter, a quarterback and receiver, was capable of inflicting the damage he did against the Huskers. Colter, playing quarterback in relief of injured starter Dan Persa, threw for 115 yards. He also ran for 57 and had 57 receiving yards.
His touchdown run with 1:34 remaining gave the Wildcats an insurmountable 28-18 lead.
“I know he’s one heck of a competitor,” Bell said. “He wants to get on the field and play and win any way he can. If that’s running the ball, he’ll run; if that’s catching, he’s catching it. If he can throw it, he’ll throw it. I’m sure he can kick it. The kid’s a stud.”
And if Colter had a Nebraska offer in high school, “I’m pretty positive we’d be playing together,” Bell said.
The two Coloradoans have a close friendship that dates to the summer before they began kindergarten, when they played soccer together.
They lived in the same neighborhood and went to the same elementary school, and when their families both moved, they moved to the same neighborhood. Bell and Colter attended the same middle school and began playing tackle football together.
“We were always together, played on the same soccer team, baseball,” Bell said. “You name it, we did it together.”
However, they ended up going to different high schools — Bell to Fairview High School, and Colter to Boulder High School for two years, and then to Cherry Creek for his junior and senior seasons.
The two continued to talk about going to the same college, but Colter originally committed to Stanford, where Bell had no offer. Then Colter suffered a shoulder injury, causing Stanford to back out.
Bell, meanwhile, had accepted Nebraska’s offer, but Colter never got an offer from the Huskers, who’d pegged Brion Carnes as their quarterback for the class. So Colter went to Northwestern.
That was more than three years ago, when Bell and Colter had no idea their teams would one day soon be playing in the same conference, in the same division.
“I mean, it’s crazy,” said Bell, who talks to Colter weekly, especially during the football season.
Even their families are close, with the moms talking a lot this week.
“A lot of trash talking between the moms,” Bell said with a smile. “It’s just joking stuff, nothing serious.”
Bell and Colter are big-play makers for their respective offenses, too. Colter is thriving in his dual quarterback/receiver role, averaging 121.9 yards of offense per game. He began the season as Northwestern’s top returning rusher, passer and receiver.
Bell, meanwhile, has blossomed into Nebraska’s top receiver, having caught 20 passes for 463 yards and four touchdowns at the season’s midway point.
His goal: to become Nebraska’s first 1,000-yard receiver in a season, something he says is very important to him.
Not as important, though, as winning against his longtime friend on Saturday.
“I just want to contribute to victories, and if that means catching balls, that’s awesome,” Bell said. “If it means blocking, I’m more than willing. I mean, whatever I can do; I just want to win for this football team.”