A knee injury ended his hopes for a collegiate career.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- As a sophomore in 1971, Ted Bell had the potential to do just about anything.
And that worried Don Bucci.
"I knew he could be a great one, but there was a fear that he might level off," Bucci, the legendary Mooney High football coach, said. "My goal was to make sure he kept getting better."
Bell, the Mooney running back, rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown in his first game, a 26-6 win over South, and finished with one of the most storied high school careers in the history of the Mahoning Valley.
He had his speed, strength and balance. He had good teammates.
And he had Bucci.
"After that first game, Coach sat me down and told me to keep my head on straight and behave myself," Bell recalled in a recent phone interview. "I was just a child then and he was like a brother. He told me the facts."
Bell rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a sophomore and more than 4,400 yards over his career. He scored 48 career touchdowns and had 27 games of 100 yards or more, including a career-best 360 against Fitch in 1973.
He ran for 2,145 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior, leading the Cardinals to their first state championship with a 14-3 win over Warren Western Reserve at the Akron Rubber Bowl.
"On paper, our team didn't look like much, but we knew what to do," Bell said.
But the win over Warren came with a cost. After injuring his left knee in a regular season win over Hubbard, Bell strained ligaments in the knee late in the game against Warren.
"I looked down and my leg was pointing left and the rest of my body was pointing right," Bell said. "I walked off the field, but when I sat down, it started to swell.
"Back then they just wrapped it up and said, 'Let's go!' "
Bell went on to Michigan State on a football scholarship, but his leg never fully healed and he had to stop playing.
After graduating in 1984, he coached briefly at Mooney before moving back to East Lansing to work in quality control for an airline flywheel manufacturer.
His wife, Wynnette, is from Campbell and he has two teen-age daughters, Jasmine and Angelica.
"Every now and then, I'll kid Wynnette about how we used to beat up on Campbell," Bell said.
Bell, 47, has almost no cartilage left in his knee and will eventually need knee replacement surgery. He once dreamed of making it to the NFL, but says things worked out for the best.
"A lot of the guys I played with ended up in pretty bad shape," he said. "Either banged up or broke."
He said he visits the Valley at least once a year and will be back this month for a church reunion.
"It's been a long time since I played," he said. "But I think about it every now and then."
Bucci won't say Bell is the best player he ever coached -- he doesn't like to rank players -- "but he was certainly the most exciting," the coach said.
Bucci retired in 1999, ranked fourth all-time in Ohio in coaching victories with one team, going 306-89-5 with four state titles in 31 seasons with the Cardinals.
"He was a very instrumental part of that 1973 team," Bucci said of Bell. "Could we have won the title without him? I doubt it."