It’s safe to say that no one saw this one coming.
Kyle Bell is supposed to inflict the pain – not feel it. When asked what it feels like to try and tackle Bell, safety Klint Kubiak said, “You just have to hang on for dear life and hope he goes down.”
Eventually Bell usually will go down, but he’s never gotten up as slowly as he did after colliding with cornerback Darryl Williams during Tuesday’s practice.
But on Wednesday, with Bell not at practice, the reality set in that Bell may not be returning anytime soon. Then after word had been spreading throughout practice that Bell could be out for the year, Assistant Director of Media Relations Mike Lefler said simply: “It’s official. He’s done for the season.”
Bell could not be reached for comment Wednesday when contacted by the Collegian. His teammates were shocked after being informed of the injury by Head Coach Sonny Lubick before practice.
“It surprised me when I heard it was a torn ACL and that he’d be out for the season,” said quarterback Caleb Hanie. “I saw Kyle afterwards and I thought it hurt him more than he was showing. Kyle’s such a tough guy he didn’t act like it was anything.”
The toughness Hanie talked about will be missed by teammates and fans alike, who were set to watch perhaps a record-setting year by Bell, who rushed for 1,288 yards and 10 touchdowns last year as a sophomore.
As bad as the news was to the Rams, their sympathies were more for Bell than themselves.
“Bottom line is it’s a blow to the football team,” said Head Coach Sonny Lubick. “It’s a bigger blow to Kyle because he’s a real special young man. He is a coach’s dream. He’ll get through this but I’ll miss coaching him.”
While the team would much rather see Bell in the end zone than on the sidelines, his work ethic and leadership will carry on during the season, much like senior safety Ben Stratton’s did last year after a similar injury.
“He’ll still be a leader for our team,” said Hanie. “Just seeing him there will be a great inspirational thing for us.”
With Bell out for the season several players figure to compete for the starting role. Sophomore Gartrell Johnson had a terrific spring and summer as the backup runner. Nnamdi Ohaeri, who had switched to defense after not getting many touches last season, returned to working out with the running backs Wednesday. Sophomore Michael Myers also figures to get some work in.
“At least the cupboard wasn’t bare,” said offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt. “You don’t go out and recruit 85 guys and not have depth at that position. All those guys bring something. It might not all come in one package like it did with Kyle, but we’ll do fine.”
As frustrating to Ram fans, and certainly to Bell, as the injury must be, there’s a saying in sports that may hold true in this situation: There’s always next year.
“It’s just hard because the kid is such a team guy,” said Hammerschmidt. “But he’ll be back next year ready to kick some butt.”