PITTSBURGH (AP)—To say things have changed in Dorian Bell’s football career from last year to this, would be an understatement.
Last season, as a linebacker at Ohio State, his home stadium seated 102,329. His Buckeyes were ranked, they were headed toward a Big Ten title, and they had their sights set on a national championship.
|BACK HOME —Duquesne linebacker Dorian Bell (2) walks the sidelines against Bryant University Oct. 1 waiting to return to action in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Duquesne University, Dave DeNoma)
This season, as a linebacker at Duquesne, his home stadium is really just a field, and it seats 2,200. His Dukes play in the Football Championship Subdivision, and at 7-2, with a 5-1 mark in the Northeast Conference, they are on their way to perhaps a banner season.
The contrast is remarkable, clearly. But to Bell, he’ll take this Catholic school in the heart of his hometown any day.
Once considered a top prospect for former coach Jim Tressel’s Buckeyes, Ohio State’s ongoing season of mayhem is a thing of the past for Bell. After two unsettled seasons in Columbus, including being one of the suspended players in the much-publicized tattoo-parlor scandal, Bell has found his way back home to his native Pittsburgh and he is set to make the most of it.
He became eligible to play last month, and suddenly is a part of a first-place Northeast Conference team with a bright future…and just a little less pressure.
“I wanted to play right away,” Bell said, “and my mindset is to be with the team right now and get together as a team and excel from here.”
A consensus five-star recruit out of Gateway High in Monroeville, Pa., Bell’s stay at Ohio State was short. And it ended when the 6-foot-1, 225-pound redshirt sophomore was suspended for the season back in the summer by Tressel for repeated violations of team rules.
In his first four games this season, Bell asserted himself as a force to be reckoned with. He had 10 solo tackles, two for losses, including a 9-yard sack.
“He’s a talent. You could see that in his first game and in practice,” Duquesne wide receiver Connor Dixon said. “We’re happy to have him here.”
And he should know all about how Bell feels in his new surroundings. After all, Dixon, also a Pittsburgh native, transferred back to his hometown from Michigan State.
In his first game back against Bryant, Bell did not start but finished with six tackles and one quarterback hurry. More importantly, his Dukes opened conference play with a win.
“I was a little bit rusty,” he said. “But it felt good to get back out there.”
It indeed has been a long road back to the field. After sitting out his freshman year at Ohio State on a redshirt, Bell played sparingly for the Buckeyes in a backup role in 2010. That ended up being the least of his problems.
He became caught up in Ohio State’s highly publicized tattoo-parlor scandal involving improper benefits. He was suspended by the NCAA for five games. And before his resignation, Tressel even added to that, giving him a season long suspension for additional violations of team rules.
Bell has declined to discuss details of the suspensions, but did say that he accepts responsibility for his actions.
“I put a lot of stock into it,” he said. “I think that God has always been watching over me. He’s done things for me that I never thought I was going to come through. He delivered, and it’s a miracle.”
Bell is among 12 players suspended at Ohio State since last December, the most notable being quarterback Terrelle Pryor, another Pittsburgh-area product, who went on to be selected by the Oakland Raiders in the NFL’s supplemental draft.
Bell and Pryor, a Jeannette, Pa., native, were among those suspended for five games for accepting cash and free or discounted tattoos in exchange for Ohio State memorabilia.
Without the ability to play for the Buckeyes for the foreseeable future, Bell departed Ohio State in August.
“I have a few people out there that I keep in touch with,” he said. “I feel like they care about me, and I like that.”
But, clearly, it was time to move on.
“All the things that I did in the past are in the past,” Bell said. “I’m trying to be here with my new teammates. Ohio State was a great place, but I just wanted to be back home. It feels awesome. My parents are right around the corner from me. I’ve got a lot of support from my family.”
And from his new team.
Duquesne coach Jerry Schmitt, in his seventh season with the Dukes, said Bell has been a role model to other players, a presence they can look up to.
“He’s doing everything that he can, all the right things to get acclimated to our Duquesne football family,” Schmitt said. “He’s really working hard on his academics and getting to know the other players.
“He’s been very receptive to everything.”
Bell is getting more in step with the game’s speed as time goes on. But he knows he has a lot to prove, and Schmitt is expecting big things from him.
“It’s too hard to tell where he’s at right now, but you can see the movements. You can see the bursts,” Schmitt said. “He can make plays.”
And while Pryor has moved on to the NFL, Bell continues his dream of perhaps doing the same.
“Right now, I’m just concentrating on this season, my teammates and my coaches,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens.”