Antonio Bell was talking with a teammate the other day about the cruelty of time.
The senior was saying how it feels like he just showed up in Lincoln. But because of those swift moving clock hands, he looks up and sees that this is it, his last fall camp.
That’ll make a guy think.
“It’s time to lay it all out on the line,” Bell said this week.
Not that the Husker cornerback hasn’t been doing that.
Bell’s is a journey that has had plenty of potential pitfalls.
But here he stands, very much in the mix for what, according to secondary coach Terry Joseph, could be a seven-man battle for two starting cornerback spots.
“I’ve been through a lot my whole life. I feel like my whole life is just overcoming things,” Bell said. “This is just another thing I have to overcome.”
Yes, perseverance has already been a needed trait for him.
Just to get to Nebraska was a quest. After he signed with Nebraska in 2008, the native of Daytona Beach, Fla., had to battle for 11 months to clear the necessary academic hurdles to be eligible.
He arrived as a wide receiver and heard the roars in the spring game that first year when he leaped in the air to make a spectacular 27-yard catch.
But by the next year, he had been moved to defense.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Bell played in eight games as a reserve defensive back his sophomore year in 2010. Last year, his role was reduced to a couple outings on special teams.
Bell hung in there.
And when this spring arrived, Bell found himself working with the No. 1 defense.
Working with the top defense in April doesn’t mean you’ll be the guy when September rolls around. But at least it showed that Bell’s last chance as a Husker is his best chance to be a factor.
But he also knows this fall camp is going to be full of severe competition to earn a starting job.
“Every guy has talent,” he said. “Stanley (Jean-Baptiste), Mo (Seisay), Ciante (Evans). Every guy has talent and all of us are close friends. We feel like the coaches … know enough that they’re going to put the best guy out there.”
So what's his coach think?
Joseph likes Bell’s length but is still looking for more consistency from him.
“He’s a guy who I think has a ton of ability, but the details of every play and the discipline of every play are his biggest enemy,” Joseph said. “And he has to tell himself mentally that 'I have to do it right every single time.' If he does that, he’s a pretty good player. If he doesn’t, he’s probably around an average player. And I’ve told him that and I’ve been honest with him. So, hopefully, he can develop the consistency and the discipline for him to help us win.”
Joseph said junior Andrew Green leads the way in the cornerback battle. But he also mentions Bell, Seisay, Jean-Baptiste, Charles Jackson, Daniel Davie and Evans (though Evans is the likely starter at nickel back).
Bell said he’s always felt like he’s had a good grasp of the defense.
But he said the biggest difference for him this year compared to past years is that he’s wiped away some off-the-field issues that were distracting him.
“I had to change my life around,” he said. “You can’t focus on playing football if you’re worried about the off-the-field issues that you get yourself into. So I just have to do a good job of controlling that, getting those issues out of the way so I can focus on football more.”
One thing he has no regrets about is making the switch to defense a couple of years ago.
The right move, he believes.
Now, in his last season, can he make his move?
“Everybody has a chance,” Bell said. “There’s not one or two set guys. It could be anybody.”