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Friday Night Hero: Carson's T.J. Bell

By Ronnie Gallagher
rgallagher@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE – It has been difficult keeping up with T.J. Bell on the football field this year.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Carson Cougar has played tight end. And defensive end. And offensive tackle. And wide receiver.
He has worn No. 51. He has worn No. 80.
Everyone should know Bell now, however. In last week’s 36-28 win over West Iredell, he found a home and a number. He’s T.J. Bell, defensive end, No. 80.
What Bell did on Friday deserves hero status. Mark Woody’s Cougars were suffering from injuries to Myquon Stout and Raquiem Howard. Woody needed a fill-in at defensive end for Stout and he turned to Bell. Woody was not disappointed as Bell had double-figure tackles.
“He hadn’t practiced there in a while” said Carson defensive assistant Travis Billings. “We had to refresh him a little bit. He made some big plays. He fought off some crack blocks and made some plays in space.”
Bell just laughs at his whirlwind senior year. Billings said he has been the ultimate utility player for the Cougars.
“I’ve wanted to play it this year,” Bell said of defensive end.
Outside of Billings and Woody, Bell’s biggest fan is his dad, Tim, a former linebacker at South Rowan.
“I always look up to him after every play,” Bell smiled. “He says to keep playing hard and if you mess up, put it behind you.”
Dad didn’t have to say that much Friday. Bell played technique football, which is something that hurt Carson early in the season when the Cougars were 1-6.
“The biggest thing was, everybody was going straight for the ball, not staying on their keys,” Bell said.
It’s hard to believe the slim Bell was a tackle but Billings said he always produced.
“He plays with a lot of emotion,” Billings said.
Woody agreed, saying Bell never had a problem playing anywhere.
“He never questioned anything,” Woody said. “He’d say, ‘Coach, whatever I need to do.’ You want to see a kid like that have success.”
The success for the rest of the season will come from the defensive end position.
“I believe he’s found a home, absolutely,” grinned Billings. “It’s his to lose now.”
No one is happier about that than the player.
“It feels real good,” Bell beamed. “I always look forward to playing defense. It’s the best time ever.”
And you can bet as well as he’s playing, when T.J. looks up in the stands, he’ll spot his dad giving him a big thumbs-up.

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