Mesa welcomes Bell

High School Football

Former Raiders running back and Iowa standout joins Mustangs coaching staff after a recent near-death experience.

August 05, 2011|By Steve Virgen,
(Kevin Chang / Daily…)

Two months ago, Nick Bell stumbled toward the brink of death.

Surgery after surgery, he lay in a hospital bed as his body continued to wither. Any thoughts of his highlights while starring as a running back at Iowa or playing for the Raiders weren't really on his mind. Rather, as death approached, Bell thought of ways he could give back.

The Costa Mesa resident had played four years in the NFL, and along with his legacy at Iowa, he had done some special things. But life could be more than just that, he thought.

As it turned out, the bell never tolled for Bell this summer, so he took action on the thoughts he had while coming so close to death.

Bell is now a volunteer assistant coach for the Costa Mesa High football team. He said he came to the Mustangs on a whim — and it appears Costa Mesa is grateful for that. The Mustangs now have a former NFL pro coaching them, one who will be working with the running backs and linebackers this season.


"In the past two months, I've had all this realization of life," said Bell, 42. "I've asked myself: What role should I play? Should I be a helper or a destroyer? Or should I just sit back and let things happen?

"I'm a man of action. I can't sit back. I want to let them know that every decision they make is a life decision. It impacts their lives. It's about being a man of your word, being dedicated to what you're doing and about loving what you're doing. If I can't instill that in them, then I failed."

Two weeks ago, Bell went to his doctor for a checkup. He wouldn't disclose his medical condition, only saying that he is disabled from his years of playing football and from the toll of the recent surgeries. It hurts for him to walk. He lost 120 pounds four months ago. But he wants to be active, and coach, at least.

On his way home from the checkup, Bell drove to Costa Mesa High. He asked around so that he could meet head coach Wally Grant.

Diane Allison, the team's booster president, met Bell and directed him to Grant, a Costa Mesa High alumnus in his first year as interim coach since taking over for Jeremy Osso, who was fired in June.

Allison said Bell becoming a Mustangs volunteer was amazing.

"He can inspire a lot of the boys and make them work even harder," she said. "My husband [Mark] is happy too because he's a Raider fan."

It hasn't taken long for the Mustangs to become fans of Bell, too. So far, his addition has gone well, Grant said.

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