Player Spotlight: Brandon Bell
After Trace McSorley took a knee while in victory formation to let the final seconds run, the crowd stormed the field at Beaver Stadium dressed in white and high on a historic upset over #2 Ohio State.
Coaches, players and fans were crying. The sanctions seemed like a distant memory as people hugged each other and sang the alma mater with what little voice they had left.
Through all the tears and cheers, Brandon Bell showed little of either. The linebacker was calm and collected as students buzzed around him.
“It's kind of me and kind of because I was dead-beat tired,” Bell said in a press conference earlier this week, downplaying the message he was sending to his team.
Bell was telling his teammates to hold back tears during the celebration. He was saying that this was what they expected to happen, not a miracle.
However, Bell had every right to be emotional. The senior came to Penn State when the sanctions following the Sandusky scandal loomed over Happy Valley like an ominous cloud.
The football program looked doomed for a decade of mediocrity.
“When I saw Penn State, and obviously those things that happened, I personally wasn't thinking like, oh, I'm going to be there,” Bell said after Penn State cracked the top 25.
That mindset all changed in one night with the defense riding on the back of Bell. He recorded 19 tackles and pressured Ohio State quarterback JT Barrett throughout the game. His performance earned him the Big Ten Player of the Week award.
Bell had not played since the first game of the season due to an injury. Returning to the field was all the senior wanted.
“It was everything, honestly. My teammates are the only thing that kept me sane the last few weeks,” Bell said. “We were out in the locker room, guys were always asking, ‘When are you coming back, when are you coming back,’ and it was like five weeks. It was an awfully big deal.”
Bell’s love for the game made it even tougher to be separated from it.
“I realize now that nothing really affects me the way football does. Nothing makes me more sad. Nothing makes me more happy,” Bell said. “I think even like with the ladies and other things, that it kind of gets me in trouble because I don't have the same emotions towards everything else as I do football.”
Bell has been a productive linebacker since his first year as a Nittany Lion. As a freshman, he recorded 24 tackles and was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team. He almost doubled his productivity his sophomore year with 47 tackles (6th most on the team), 2 sacks, multiple pass breakups and an interception.
Bell became a clear leader on the defense in his junior year. This was demonstrated by his impressive 11-tackle (8 of which were solo) game in the Taxslayer bowl against the Georgia Bulldogs.
In his senior year, Bell is finally becoming comfortable being a vocal leader for the Lions’ defense.
“This year I am taking of in more of a leadership role; I felt more comfortable doing it,” Bell said. “I expressed that to them and making sure our minds are right before the game.”
Following big wins, the Nittany Lions have been known to underperform. After the four-overtime victory over Michigan in 2013, the team lost three of their next five games. Penn State will be relying on the senior’s leadership this week against Purdue to keep the team from having a Happy Valley hangover.
“It’s definitely not over. I think it is just the tip of the iceberg,” Bell said. “We have to keep pushing. We can't be satisfied.”
Paddy Cotter is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.