Yeremiah Neavius Bell, born March 3, 1978 in Winchester, Kentucky, is a recent free agent safety signed by the Arizona Cardinals to compete for a starting job. The 35-year old, listed at 6′o” and 205 pounds, is a recent free agent acquisition and a former Pro Bowl (in 2009) safety, drafted in the sixth round by the Miami Dolphins in the 2003 NFL Draft. Considering where he initially came from early on in his career his story is pretty remarkable.
Bell went to George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester, where he primarily played safety and wide receiver. He also played baseball and basketball, but his best sport was football. However, Bell was not highly recruited out of high school and after not getting a full scholarship, he began working in a local steel mill in central Kentucky.
After a couple of years working at the steel mill, Bell decided to enroll at nearby Eastern Kentucky, where he decided to walk-on and try out for the Colonels’ football team. Bell did make the team but he came very close to quitting the team during two-a-day practices during his freshman year.
Thank goodness for Bell’s decision to remain on the team, because he ended up excelling in the defensive backfield. During his three years with the Colonels, Bell was a finalist for the 2001 Buck Buchanan Award as the Division 1-AA Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named a 2001 All-American, two time All-Ohio Valley conference safety (2000, 01) and was the OVC defensive player of the year (2001). Unfortunately, before Bell’s senior year he injured his knee in a pick-up basketball game, ending his college career.
Even after his season-ending injury, Bell was still drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 2003 NFL Draft. In his rookie season he was relegated to the practice squad. In 2004, Bell played in 13 games and recorded 10 tackles in primarily a special teams role, and towards the end of the year he broke his leg.
Over the next couple of years as he slowly moved up the depth chart, and he finally made the starting lineup in 2006. In his first season, Bell registered 62 tackles, two sacks and 11 passes defended. At one point during the season Jason Taylor once said about Bell “the guy just makes plays, no matter if it’s special teams, defense or whatever. He always makes plays for us.”
In the 2007 season opener, Bell tore his Achilles tendon and was lost for the year. In 2008, Bell became an unrestricted free agent and after not getting much interest on the market, the Dolphins resigned him to a one-year deal. After returning from his Achilles tendon injury in 2008, Bell truly started making his mark in the NFL and blossomed, as he became a force to be reckoned with, as he finished the season with 120 tackles, one sack and three forced turnovers.
Bell ended up being Miami’s leading tackler in 2008 and 2009, as he had 114 tackles, 1.5 sacks and three interceptions in 2009. After the season he was given the ultimate prize of becoming a Pro Bowler. Again in 2010 he had another solid year with 101 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. However, after the another solid season in 2011 the Dolphins decided to release him.
Last year, Bell was signed to a one-year deal with the New York Jets where he also had another very productive season with over 100 tackles. After only one year in New York, he again became an unrestricted free agent and decided to sign with the Cardinals and join his former secondary coach with the Miami Dolphins Todd Bowles . Bowles was hired this year by head coach Bruce Arians to be his new defensive coordinator.
I compare Bell on defense with new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, very similar to the way I view running back Rashard Mendenhall on offense with Bruce Arians calling plays. Bell played for Bowles in Miami, so there is a certain amount of trust with each other. He is a proven starter that makes plays and is very comfortable in Bowles’ system.
In fact, during the 2008 season (Bowles first year as the secondary coach), is when Bell started to blossom into one of the better safeties in the NFL. Furthermore, that year, Bell was named to the USA Today All-Joe Team. Which is an annual selection of National Football League players and coaches deemed hard workers and over-achievers that maybe overlooked by the media. The very next year (2009), Bell became a Pro Bowler.
Bell will be used early on in Bowles’ system as the starting safety (can play either strong or free safety). At the ripe old age of 35, he will provide great leadership and believe the Cardinals think he is still playing close to the Pro Bowl caliber that he displayed in 2009. Furthermore, because of his leadership skills on and off the field, he will also be able to mentor the younger players such as Tyrann Mathieu, Tony Jefferson (provided that he makes the team) and Justin Bethel, just to name a few.
Here is a little of what head coach Arians had to say about Bell. “Yeremiah is the kind of guy you love to have on your football team. He’s a guy with experience as a starter who has been very productive. He’s also been incredibly durable, starting every game but one over the last five years. Team-wise he’s exactly the type of player you want in you locker room–a football junkie who loves the game.”
Look for Bell to be a huge contributor this year for the Redbirds, and look for him to be a great mentor for the younger players in Bowles’ defensive system. For that, I give this signing an A.