By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Coming out of college before the 2010 NFL draft, Joique Bell told a reporter that he would be playing for the Detroit Lions. He did not know how it would happen, but he knew it would happen.
Bell used to work as a security guard for the Lions – not for games at Ford Field, but for training camp, at the team hotel and the Allen Park practice facility. Since Bell’s brother-in-law was then a FBI agent doing background checks for the team, Bell would go to the team’s headquarters even on his days off and observe practices.
“I would just sit there and watch, in awe, and say, ‘One day. One day,’” Bell said, something akin to awe in his voice even as he spoke about his new contract Wednesday. “That one day finally came.”
Originally signed by Buffalo after going undrafted in 2010, Bell bounced around the practice squads of the Bills, Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints before getting picked up by Detroit. Now Bell has a three-year, $9.3 million contract with his hometown team, and $4.3 million of that money is guaranteed.
“Me signing this contract is something monumental in my life,” Bell said. “It’s a milestone that I reached.”
As Bell sat before reporters with his 8-year-old son Jordan, he spoke not just about the money and the game but about the hometown that he appreciates so much. Bell grew up in Benton Harbor, Mich., and graduated from Wayne State University. When he visited a local school recently, a kid asked him why he loves Detroit.
“I love Detroit because Detroit loves me,” Bell said. “I came here as an 18-year-old not knowing what to expect, and now, nine years later I’m signing the biggest deal of my life. So many emotions.
“It’s more than football,” Bell continued. “This is more than a game. It’s more than a paycheck. I look at the teams around the league, and Detroit is one of two or three teams that’s never won the Super Bowl ever. I want to bring that here. I want to bring that Lombardi here to Detroit. It’s been long overdue. ”
With Detroit’s signing of high-profile rusher Reggie Bush during last year’s free agency period, Bell was little more than an afterthought for most media and fans. Bell turned out to be a vital part of the offense, spelling Bush and giving the Lions a different kind of back with his grit and power as opposed to Bush’s flash and speed. Bell rushed for 650 yards on 166 carries, 41 of which went for first downs, with eight touchdowns among them.
The Lions appreciate the dimension Bell brings to their team, and they demonstrated it by making Bell’s signing their first move of the free agency period. Bell said signing that deal, which came after about two weeks of negotiations, was an amazing feeling.
“Security’s everything,” Bell said. “When I first came out, I had a chip on my shoulder that was proving to everybody I belong. I never once doubted myself even when I was cut from team to team. A team would release me, say they wanted me on their practice squad, and even though they didn’t pay me the minimum I knew some type that I had some kind of talent that could be utilized in this league, and that just gave me even more confidence.
“In this league, if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will,” Bell added.
Clearly, the Lions believe.