Wednesday’s was the first football practice Kyle Bell had ever missed.
CSU’s sidelined star began playing when he was 7, but now, thanks to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, it’s over for a while.
“When I first found out, it was indescribable – that initial feeling of shock, I’ll never forget it,” Bell said Thursday. “It was surreal. It still is surreal the next day. I’ve never been injured before.”
Bell, a running back who ran for 1,288 yards as a sophomore last season, found out the extent of his injury from Head Trainer Terry DeZeeuw on Wednesday morning. Later that day, his team practiced without him.
Bell’s ACL tore on Tuesday when CSU cornerback Darryl Williams tackled him near the end of the day’s practice drills. A stunned Bell took about a minute to get back on his feet after the collision.
He told the Collegian he’d ice his knee and return to the practice field on Wednesday. He didn’t realize his season was over.
“For a lot of athletes and football players especially, it is the worst fear. But you don’t really think about it until it happens,” Bell said.
But he places no blame for his injury.
“I talked to Darryl, I don’t blame him. I don’t blame the coaches for running live drills,” Bell said. “It’s football. It’s easy to blame someone, but it really is nobody’s fault.”
Bell now finds himself on the sidelines as a medical redshirt this season.
He will have two more years of eligibility left for the Rams. The coaches have told Bell that he will still be expected to be an integral part of the team this season.
“I am still going to be a big part of the team,” Bell said. “Whether it’s on the sideline, in the locker room, off the field, I’ll be there.”
Head Coach Sonny Lubick will miss seeing Bell on the field but is not worried about Bell’s psyche regarding the injury.
“The thing he has got going for him is that he is smart enough to recognize that he has got a lot of hope and a good future,” Lubick said Thursday.
Bell, who had 3.65 GPA during his sophomore year, was named second-team Academic All-American at the end of last season. Lubick thinks Bell’s athletic injury may work to his academic advantage.
“He’s got two more years of football, he’s got three more years of college; he could end up with a couple of majors, if not a master’s,” a joking Lubick said Thursday.
After finding out about his injury Wednesday, Bell took the advice of his coaches and made the 60-mile drive to his family’s home in Keenesburg for the night.
His father, Dave Bell, said that despite his son having no prior experience with injuries, eventually he will be able to return at the highest level.
“It’s a tough situation, but he’ll work it out,” Dave Bell said. “He’s a tough kid. He has been through a lot.”
If Bell needs to ask anyone about overcoming a season-ending knee injury, he simply needs to look down the locker room at senior safety Ben Stratton.
Stratton, who is struggling to regain his starting status, gave Bell advice on overcoming the injury.
“I talked to Ben for about 15 minutes (Wednesday) and he just told me how he was able to get through his situation,” Bell said.
The responsibility of being CSU’s starting back now falls on the shoulders of sophomore Gartrell Johnson III. The team will not miss a beat with Johnson at the helm, according to Bell.
“He may not have experience but I didn’t have any experience when I first started either,” Bell said. “I may be in a battle for the starting spot next year.”
With surgery scheduled within the next two weeks, Bell is already prepping for the future.
“With the type of surgery I’m looking to get, rehab can start within two weeks of the surgery,” Bell said. “I don’t think it is unrealistic to say I may be able to get some reps during spring ball, I won’t be 100 percent, but I think I can be out there. I’ll be back.”
CSU opens their season Saturday at 3 p.m. against the Weber State Wildcats.
Collegian staff writers Sean Star and Matt Planalp contributed to this story.
Sports editor Mike Donovan can be reached at email@example.com.