This Bell's toll is finally being heard.
More accurately, Damien Bell's three years of toil in Thornton's backfield is starting to get him noticed. What Wildcats coach Bill Mosel can't figure out is why it's taken so many people so long a time to discover the senior running back.
The veteran leader has certainly done his part to promote Bell. Not one given to hyperbole, Mosel generally keeps a low profile when it comes to publicly assessing his team's individual talent, but he willingly jumped on the Bell bandwagon a while ago.
"I think he's one of the better ones around," Mosel said. "He just runs with determination. He reminds me a little of (past Thornton tailbacks Corey) Sykes and David Wright -- they run bigger than they are."
A lack of imposing size may be one of the things working against Bell as far as notoriety is concerned. Officially listed at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, Bell mentioned 5-7 when asked about his height.
"I'm not much of a big back," he said. "I never felt overlooked by the other teams, but I felt that way about the colleges."
Mosel said a few Mid-American Conference schools are becoming aware of Bell, and for good reason. When it comes to the numbers that matter most -- those that indicate productivity -- Bell measures up to anybody around.
After gaining nearly 1,000 yards and scoring 16 touchdowns as a junior, Bell has burst into the 2010 season with 570 rushing yards and five TDs in three games, all of them Wildcats victories. His 10-yard scoring dash on Thornton's first play in overtime led to a 27-24 defeat of Andrew in last Saturday's SouthWest Suburban Red opener.
"I just said, 'I've got to score now,'" Bell said. "We've got a pretty good O-line this year, and my experience kind of slows the game down for me. I know what to look for and what (is important) to see."
"It's that senior leadership (coming through), saying, 'Hey, put it on me,'" Mosel said.
Even with other good skill guys like Charles Knowles and Dimitrius Hardwick surrounding him, Bell fills an important role for the 'Cats. He credits his sophomore-year arrival with aiding in his development as a difference-making performer.
"I was playing with a lot of stars, like Donte Talbert and Darren Jones, and I had to stay humble," Bell said. "I learned (from them) how to be dedicated and work hard. It's work hard or go home."
Thornton stayed home from the playoffs last fall, a situation Mosel and his players are anxious to remedy. If the Times No. 1 Wildcats continue to excel, that will probably happen, and maybe then Bell would begin hearing the recognition that has often been missing.
"I don't think it really bothers him, but he got lost somehow within the football community," Mosel said. "Every time I would mention Damien, nobody wanted to talk about him. It was like he was an afterthought."
Rest assured, the Wildcats' next six foes will give Bell plenty of consideration.