Bell closes out historic career as Defensive Player of the Year

Published 5:19 pm Wednesday, December 4, 2019

There wasn’t much left for Danville senior linebacker Darrian Bell to accomplish going into his senior year. 

As a freshman, he was on the sidelines watching as the Admirals got to the state championship but came up short to Christian Academy of Louisville. As a sophomore, he was the team’s leading tackler as they went 15-0 and brought home another trophy to Title Town.

His senior year, however, lacked the team success of his first two years, but Bell was able to find individual glory. He eclipsed the 400 tackle mark for his career. Career tackles isn’t a stat that has been historically kept at Danville, so it’s impossible to know where it ranks all-time for the Admirals, but everyone agrees it would be near the top. He finished the season with 125 tackles, good for the team lead by 50. Only two players — Seth Gosser and Dontious Slaughter — had more total tackles than Bell had solo tackles.

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This year’s Danville team was young, and Bell knew that going in, so he wanted to focus on making himself the best player he could. It’s safe to say he achieved that goal.

“Over the year, with the team being like it was you had to work on yourself. I still want to go to college and I couldn’t let that stop me,” he said. “So I had to focus hard on practice, working on my technique and stuff like that. I was just trying to become a better football player so I could be more prepared for the college level.”

Tackling wasn’t the only area Bell excelled at as a linebacker. He got his fourth and fifth career interceptions and his first returned for a TD.

“I’d gotten interceptions every year on defense, but this was my first time getting to run one back,” he said. “Something that comes with a linebacker getting interceptions is not just thinking ‘run, run, run, run, run.’ That helps me in college because they want you to drop to help in pass coverage and not stay down. Being able to read receivers and read routes and be able to catch the ball. Coaches will say ‘you’re a DB because you can’t catch.’ Either way, I’m a linebacker, but I can catch the ball if it comes to me.”

All of that — and more — led to Bell being named the All-Area Defensive Player of the Year.

“Darrian has been a great player for our program over the last three years,” Danville coach Clay Clevenger said. “He is a very hardworking and dedicated young man in everything he does, not just football. He has always led by example working extremely hard in and out of season to make himself the best player he can be.”

For Bell, the honor means he has the respect of the other coaches.

“It’s great to have the respect of other coaches. You know, some coaches just won’t like kids or think a kid’s lazy,” he said. “But after the games, I felt like the coaches respected me and how I played. They’d come up to me and tell me I’m a heck of a ballplayer or that I play so hard. 

“One coach in particular — I can’t remember who we played — but we were taking a knee and coach was about to tell us to leave. This coach came up to me to shake my hand and said ‘You’re a hell of a ballplayer and good luck to you.’”

With the team relying on underclassmen to step up into key varsity roles, Bell had to fill the role of team leader and mentor for the younger guys. That wasn’t a hard transition for him.

“It wasn’t that bad because in school, classmates look to me. Some teachers look to me. I’ve always kind of had that leadership role,” he said. “This year’s team — they were young but they were eager to learn. They wanted to play. I just felt like they wanted to be out there, wanted to play — and that made it easier on me and the coaches. In practices, I felt like they were getting it but when it came to games — you’re still a freshman and they’ve still been playing football longer than you. So I think once they get to learning how to do that stuff, it’ll all come easy for them.”

Ultimately, Bell’s goal for the 2019 season was simple.

“This year, I just wanted to have fun. I felt like with the team we had — even though they were young — I had a lot of fun. Plus, I can’t complain,” he said. “We went to state my freshman and sophomore year. I got to start and play my sophomore year when we won it. Junior and senior year it didn’t go so well, but I was playing football. That’s something I’ve been privileged to do over the years.”