Bell always a Razorback

This is the latest in a series of features on the 2009 University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor inductees.

Richard Bell was a two-year football letterman for Arkansas (1957, 58) as a right end. He was the captain of the 1958 team, which was the first team for head coach Frank Broyles. Bell stood out defensively and he also caught 12 passes for 241 yards and one touchdown in his college career. Prior to Arkansas, he played center and end at Little Rock Central High School and was selected as the team’s Most Valuable Player on the state championship squad. A 1959 graduate of Arkansas, Bell earned a degree in physical education and later earned a master’s degree from the school in 1962. After Arkansas, Bell went into a 47-year career in coaching. Bell was named NCAA Division I-A Assistant Coach of the Year in 1998 by the American Football Coaches Association. Bell’s career included stops at VMI, Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Texas Tech, South Carolina, Duke, East Carolina, Georgia, Navy and Air Force. Bell was recently selected for the UA Sports Hall of Honor and had the opportunity to catch up with him recently on several subjects:

On being selected for the UA Sports Hall of Honor:“I appreciated it so much. When you look at the people who have gone in and been on the ballot, it is very humbling to know you’ve been considered with them. I’m very appreciative and honored by it. I made some contributions when I was playing and coaching there people want to recognize, but this is a team award. Any success I had was because of the guys that played and coached around me. It did mean a lot to me when the school called and told me I was going to be in the Hall of Honor. As the old saying goes, “once a Razorback, always a Razorback”.

On coming to Arkansas after high school:“Every young man in the state dreams about going to play for Arkansas. We had some guys already on the team and Coach (Wilson) Matthews took me up to Fayetteville one weekend. It was his recommendation that got me there. It was never really a decision for me to become a Razorback. I was blessed to get the opportunity”

On his favorite game as a Razorback:“So many great games run through my mind. My junior year we played Texas A&M. They were ranked No. 1 nationally and we were No. 11. They had John David Crowe, and we had a really good team that year. We played them in Fayetteville and lost, 7-6. It was really something to be a part of that game though. It looked like we had a chance to win at the end of the game, but I think that game will be remembered for how tough we played them. It will always hurt me that we lost, because I felt like we were every bit as good as they were that day. The one I will always remember most though will always be the SMU game during my senior season in 1958. We started off 0-6 and it was tough. There was a lot of adversity, but the bunch I played with that year was fighters. We beat Texas A&M in College Station and then came home and played SMU in Fayetteville. That season, SMU had Don Meredith and we pulled off a major upset (13-6 Arkansas victory). That win gave us momentum and we finished up the season well.

On his coaching career:“Coach Broyles let me come back as a graduate assistant in 1959. In my entire 47-year career it was a pleasure going to work each day. The most rewarding part was associating with the players and being around them. I was under some outstanding head coaches who really influenced my life. They took a genuine interest in me. I enjoyed the fundamentals and schemes of the game, but the most meaningful thing was to get to see guys get better and realize their potential, and then take the things they learn on the field and apply it to the game of life.”

On Texas A&M returning to the schedule for the Southwest Classic (Oct. 3, 2009, in Arlington, Texas):“I was raised around the Southwest Conference all my life and Arkansas playing against Texas A&M has always been very special to me. It did hurt to see the SWC break up, but I think this is going to be a great rivalry renewed. It always has been, and this should be a heck of a series for fans to watch. It always was when we played them.”

On the current Razorback football team:“The game has changed so much. To see that, all you have to do is think back to my senior year. I led the team in receptions and I only caught eight passes. That tells you a lot. I follow the program today from a long distance. I’m impressed with Bobby Petrino and the job he is doing. I’ve still got friends on staff, and they keep me up to date. They tell me how recruiting is going, and so I know that they are doing well. Fans need to know that playing in the SEC is a challenge. Nothing is going to happen overnight, and it is a marathon, not a sprint. That being said, the thing that impresses me the most is how the team kept playing last year. That speaks volumes about the staff and of the players and shows their team chemisty is where it needs to be. They never lost their dedication, heart and commitment to the game. It shows in the way they were able to beat LSU and hang tough. Those things will be something they build on in the years ahead.”

On his current activities:“I’m retired and living in Atlanta, and although retirement is the greatest thing in the world, I’m keeping my hand in things. I’m into consulting a little bit and can go into high schools and colleges and talk about defensive football and motivation. I’ve got into writing as well, which surprised me. I didn’t think I’d be able to sit down and write for four or five hours a day. It is a labor of love though, and I find it relaxing and enjoyable. I’ve got one book on defense and the plans are for it to be published in the fall. It focuses on different fundamentals and techniques of defense that can be applied to any level. After that, I’m working on one about motivation. I’m also speaking through FCA, so those are the things that keep me busy these days.”

UA Sports Hall of Honor members are selected by a vote of former letterwinners in conjunction with the “A” Club. The official induction is Friday, Sept. 18, at the Holiday Inn in Springdale. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased from the Razorback Foundation. For more information, call the Razorback Foundation at 479-443-9000.