Alabama’s 2009 recruiting class witnessed greatness under head coach Nick Saban.
It watched the Crimson Tide win a national title in 2009, and achieved back-to-back national championships as starters in 2011 and 2012. Eddie Lacy, Trent Richardson, Kevin Norwood and Ed Stinson were all marquee names, but there was one more player in Alabama’s 2009 class, four-star wide receiver Kenny Bell.
Bell was a talented athlete at Rayville High School (Rayville, La.). He brought in 95 passes for 1,730 yards with 21 touchdowns in his career. His efforts earned him 3A first-team All-State selection honors from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. He chose to come to Alabama over seven other programs, including Auburn, Michigan, Florida, Mississippi State and LSU.
Bell saw action in 10 games in 2010 as a redshirt freshman. He caught two passes for 26 yards, and was a member of an Alabama team that ended the season at 10-3. The Crimson Tide would defeat No.7-ranked Michigan State 49-7 in the 2011 Capital One Bowl.
A new face was under center in 2011, and it happened to be Bell’s closest friend in Alabama’s 2009 recruiting class, redshirt sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron. Bell appeared in 13 games, accounting for 255 yards and two touchdowns on 17 receptions.
He averaged 15 yards per catch, and the Crimson Tide met top-ranked LSU in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.
Alabama’s defense aggravated the Tigers. LSU’s offense crossed the 50-yard line once, and totaled 92 yards in the game. Place kicker Jeremy Shelley nailed five of seven field goals, and running back Trent Richardson’s touchdown sealed the deal. Alabama pitched a 21-0 shutout over LSU, capturing its 14th national championship in program history.
Alabama’s offense was clicking in 2012. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier had a solid game plan, AJ McCarron developed more confidence as a second year starter, and freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper took college football by storm. Kenny Bell remained consistent, and produced his best as a junior. He totaled 431 yards and three touchdowns on 17 catches.
A 29-24 loss against Texas A&M didn’t negate Alabama from pursuing a conference title.
It finished the regular season strong, and faced No.3-ranked Georgia in the 2012 Southeastern Conference Championship Game. Alabama emerged victorious 32-28, and would face top-ranked Notre Dame in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.
The Fighting Irish couldn’t produce much on offense, and its defense had no answers for Alabama’s balanced attack. Coach Saban and company secured its third title, by defeating Notre Dame 42-14. What’s intriguing about Kenny Bell is that he’s more than a football player.
Bell is also a father and a devoted one to his three children. He enjoys spending time with them, and even considered leaving the team early in the 2013 season.
Coach Saban understood what he was going through. He allowed Bell time to be with his family, and Bell made a decision to remain with the team. He wasn’t targeted much as a senior in 2013, yet Bell did not complain. He caught 14 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.
Alabama fell short of its ultimate goal, but managed to have an 11-win season.
Bell, who stood at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, wasn’t the biggest receiver at Alabama, however, he was quick, tough and possessed solid hands. He appeared in 48 career games, and logged 879 yards with six touchdowns on 50 catches. Alabama won three of four bowl games with Bell. He tried out for the Washington Redskins as an undrafted rookie free agent, but it didn’t pan out. Bell is now back in Louisiana, and is doing something that he loves.
He’s assisting as a wide receivers coach at Rayville High School, but always has time to recapture old memories at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Bell was seen signing autographs, during Alabama’s 2015 spring game. It’s uncertain what the future holds for Bell, but while he was at Alabama, he was an important piece in the team’s dominance from 2009-12.
Stephen M. Smith is a staff writer and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.