Why former Nebraska WR Kenny Bell could be flying under the radar
Kenny Bell understood the importance of standing out at the NFL Combine and Nebraska’s pro day.
For months, Bell worked tirelessly with good friend and former teammate Ameer Abdullah at Michael JohnsonPerformance in Houston in an effort to dazzle scouts and front-office personnel. With less than three weeks until draft day, the former Nebraska wide receiver has had some time to reflect on where he’s at.
“I’m just so happy to be in the position that I’m in, but there’s always more work to do,” Bell said
Over the next month, Bell, a product of Boulder, Colorado, will enter a rookie training camp in an attempt to make an NFL roster.
Playing professional football has always been on the radar. Growing up the son of Ken Bell, who played with the Denver Broncos from 1986-89, he adopted a demeanor of not making too much of the moment.
“The game isn’t too big for him,” Nebraska wide receivers coach Rich Fisher told FOXSports.com. “The stage is never too big. He never got too high and never too low. That’s a sign of confidence and preparation. When we needed a big play, we looked Kenny’s way.”
At 6-foot-1, 197 pounds, Bell has flown under the radar in this year’s draft class, which features a deep crop of wide receivers. Bell ran a blazing 4.42 in the 40-yard dash and jumped 41.5 inches in the vertical, which highlights lower-body explosion.
“My dad has been very influential and helped me through this process, but also during my college career,” Bell said. “He showed me how to prepare and what it takes. I’m lucky I have an unbelievable support system at home.”
During his time in Lincoln, Bell got to go up against some top-line talent and future NFL players. His redshirt freshman season, the year he credits most of his growth to, he competed against the likes of Prince Amukamara (Giants), Alfonzo Dennard (Patriots) and Eric Hagg (Broncos).
“That was a very influential year and was very important to me,” Bell said. “When I started to play I realized how much I benefited from that.”
Throughout his career, Bell shredded the competition and rewrote record books, leaving Nebraska as the all-time leading receiver in school history. Bell has the most career receptions (181) and yards (2,689) in school history. Last year, Bell was named a team captain and earned All-Big Ten honors.
“Leadership can be defined as influence,” Bell said. “What type of influence do you have on your teammates and the people around you? I like to think of myself as a people person, and I think I treat people around me well. That’s what afforded me the opportunity to be team captain last year.”
Headlined by Alabama’s Amari Cooper, West Virginia’s Kevin White and Louisville’s DeVante Parker, this year’s draft is expected to see three wide receivers selected within the first 14 picks. Bell, though, who projects as a midround pick, possesses something those others don’t, according to his former coach.
“There’s no doubt he’s flying under the radar,” Fisher said. “The draft seems to be a lot about measurables: height, weight, size and speed. But I would take Kenny Bell over any of those guys. He can run by you, but he can also block you at the point of attack on the perimeter. That’s a tough combination, especially when it comes to play action.”
Bell can stretch the field, challenge defenders deep and track the ball as well as any other receiver Fisher has coached, he said. With the NFL becoming a passing league, it’s something that is coveted and even put at a premium.
“His second gear and physicality as a blocker for his size stands out,” one AFC scout told FOXSports.com in a text message.
It wasn’t all glamour during his days at Nebraska, though.
While Bell comes from an affluent background, he had trouble paying the bills and keeping the power on, CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd detailed last August. Bell, an ethnic studies major with a double minor in history and sociology, started bartending to make ends meet. While Bell easily could’ve given one of his parents a ring, he took pride in looking after himself.
Now that he’s in position to earn a large enough signing bonus to do much more than keep the lights on, his workmanlike effort remains. That’s something seasoned coaching staffs will certainly appreciate. There’s no entitled rookie wide receiver with this guy.
“I’m looking forward to getting to a camp and making a team,” Bell said. “I can only control what I can control, and that’s my attitude and my effort. I’m going to have a great attitude and give all my effort.”