One Bell of a season

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, November 12, 2008

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — As a child, Pierre Bell despised East Carolina University. He couldn’t stand the sight of the Pirates’ gaudy purple uniforms. Hated the purple and gold chant. And grew tired of hearing all his friends say, “Aarrrgh.”
As a budding football star in New Bern, Bell always envinsioned himself slipping on a Tar Heel blue uniform, or donning the red and white of the Wolfpack.
Never did he see himself playing for the Pirates.
However, toward the end of his junior year at West Craven High School, the Pirates began beckoning him.
And eventually, former ECU coach John Thompson convinced Bell to stay close to home and play for the Pirates.
Now, Bell bleeds purple and gold.
Bell originally signed as a 6-foot-3, 200-pound running back, but made the switch to linebacker while redshirting in 2004.
Once he stepped onto the field — replacing Josh Chilson as the Pirates’ starting outside linebacker for the final two games of the 2005 season — he made his presence felt right away.
In his first start, Bell logged 11 tackles (10 solo) to help the Pirates rally past Marshall for a 34-29 win. A week later, he intercepted UAB starter Darryl Hackney on two occasions to pick up the first interceptions of his career.
As a sophomore, Bell battled through a foot injury and then a shoulder injury to start 11 games at outside linebacker and record 66 tackles.
Then last season, Bell had a breakout year, finishing second on the team with 97 tackles, while matching his career-high with a pair of interceptions.
When East Carolina senior linebacker Quentin Cotton went down with a season-ending knee injury against Tulane on Sept. 13, fellow Bell put the honus on himself to step up for his fallen friend.
Bell started the year as the Pirates’ middle linebacker, and in wins over No. 17 Virginia Tech and No. 8 West Virginia, tied his career-high with 11 tackles in each contest.
But with the under-sized Johnson more comfortable in the middle, Bell made the switch back to outside linebacker against Virginia in the sixth game of the season.
Since making the switch, the Pirates have played their best defensive football of the season, allowing just 12 points per game in three straight wins over Memphis, Central Florida and Marshall. It’s no surprise that Bell has also played the best football of his career in that three-game stretch.
Bell has led East Carolina in tackles each of the last three games, and has recorded at least six tackles in eight-of-nine games this year.
For the season, Bell is tied for the team lead with 66 tackles and has recorded one interception and one forced fumble. He’s also logged a career-best eight tackles-for-a-loss and two fumble recoveries, also a career-high.
In 34 career starts, the most of any current East Carolina player, Bell has recorded 257 tackles (18 TFL’s), 2.5 sacks, five interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Numbers that are worthy enough to play at the next level. But right now, Bell isn’t concerned with whether or not he’ll get a shot in the NFL.