Somewhere between the BCS debate, Boise State fans clamoring for a shot at the national title and the newest college football power rankings, you will find a much less publicized, yet infinitely more important story.
Nick Bell, a defensive end for Mississippi State, is reportedly in intensive care following emergency surgery Monday. Bell had surgery in early October to remove a cancerous mass from his brain.
While the initial prognosis was good following the surgery, Bell felt sick Sunday night and was rushed to the hospital. Now, Bell is fighting for his life in the hospital as doctor’s do what they can to stabilize and treat him.
Bell’s coach, Dan Mullen, visited him Monday night. and he will be bringing a group of about 50 players to the hospital Tuesday night to show their support for their teammate.
As a Boston College student this story sounds just a little too familiar. A division one college football player experiencing some discomfort one day and being in a fight for his life the next, seems to be far too common these days.
In 2008, Mark Herzlich was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and looked poised to be a first-round draft pick following his senior season in 2009. Then, in the spring of 2009, Herzlich went to the doctor’s to diagnose the cause of some lingering leg pain.
Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. The announcement sent shockwaves through the Boston College, the NCAA and sports communities. A potential first-round draft pick was now worried about life and not football.
Hopefully, Nick Bell will be able to draw inspiration from Herzlich. Herzlich was able to make a full recovery and is playing again for the Eagles this season. Along the way, he touched the lives of thousands of people and raised an astronomical amount of money for the fight against cancer.
Hopefully Mississippi State will follow Boston College’s lead and remember that life is more important than football. The entire Boston College community rallied behind Herzlich, offering support in as many ways possible. Every team raised money for the fight against cancer, and you’d be hard pressed to find a student who doesn’t own a BC Beat Cancer t-shirt. All of the proceeds from the shirt went to the fight against cancer as well.
Hopefully the SEC will react like the ACC and support Mississippi State and Bell every step of the way. Every team in the ACC pledged their support, honored Herzlich and donated to the cause. While the battle was Herzlich’s alone, all of this support must have helped him anytime he felt down.
Hopefully the NCAA, NFL, ESPN and the rest of the country won’t treat Bell like being the second college football star diagnosed with cancer in the last few years is not as startling. Bell deserves the same support Herzlich received, and he needs it now. College Gameday needs to visit Davis Wade Stadium for their next home game against Arkansas, and Bell’s plight needs to be broadcast on SportsCenter.
Hopefully, Nick Bell will recover fully. Bell should have the opportunity to be evaluated by some of the medical profession’s best, and he is in their hands now. Bell is in peak physical condition, which can only help his chances. While there is little information available about his current prognosis, we can only hope that the visits from coaches and teammates are good signs.
Hopefully the next time Nick Bell turns on the TV he sees a sportscaster wishing him well. The next time he opens a card it’s an inspirational letter from a complete stranger, which is just one of thousands. The next time he attends a Mississippi State game, the fans cheer for him louder than they cheer at any point in the game. Hopefully America will realize that in the fight against cancer every little bit helps, and any support that can be given to this young man should be.
Football is just a game—life is so much more than that. If you're one for prayer, then pray for Bell. If you're a writer, send him a letter. And if you're looking to make a financial difference, make a donation to charity.
We may know Nick Bell as a football player, but it's time to support him as person, a student and a friend.
UPDATE: As the comments have already alluded to and I regretfully must confirm, Nick Bell passed on this afternoon. While Nick will never have the chance to receive the support I called for in this article, it is only fair that his family and friends receive as much support as possible in the wake of this terrible tragedy. Rest in Peace Nick, the entire nation mourns your passing.