One of the most decorated football player in Chiefs history can add another honor to his resume. The Minnesota Golden Gophers will be retiring the Hall of Famer’s No. 78 tomorrow as part of their homecoming festivities. Bell spoke with The Minnesota Daily about the ceremony and his incredible journey to Minnesota.
“It’s awesome, man,” Bell said of having his jersey retired. Bell said he feels especially lucky because he’s alive to see it happen, citing that athletes often receive this honor posthumously.
At the University of Minnesota, Bell walked onto the basketball team as its first African-American player and also wanted to play on the baseball team. “A lot of people felt that I was a better baseball player than I was a football player,” Bell said.
As an African-American, Bell could not play Division I football alongside white players in North Carolina due to segregation and was forced to look out-of-state for a school to attend. Jim Taylor, an assistant at North Carolina, called Warmath and told him to consider recruiting the versatile Bell.
Bell’s trip to Minnesota was the first time he’d ever flown on an airplane. Bell said he did not know much about Minnesota’s football program at the time, but that playing for the Gophers proved to be the right decision.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would not change one thing,” Bell said.
Bell said he does not know what he will be feeling when he walks onto the field Oct. 2 at TCF Bank Stadium
“I know one thing,” he said. “I am just blessed to be around and for them to retire my jersey and to share this with my family and friends.”
“The only thing I wish is that my dad and mom were still here,” Bell said.
An amazing and completely deserving honor for one of the greatest all time Chiefs. I’m just shocked that his jersey wasn’t retired the second he stepped off campus instead of waiting until after his 70th birthday. To not only perform the way he did individually, but to help push a down program immediately into back-to-back Rose Bowls is an amazing feat.
Congratulation, Mr. Bell! Here’s to a great day in Minnesota and seeing you back in Kansas City sooner rather than later.