Sports obituary: Sell played his heart out for Falcons

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 29, 2024

Statesville Owls jersey.


By Mike London

CLEVELAND — On the final Friday of the 2018 football regular season, West Rowan and Statesville battled to decide the North Piedmont Conference championship.

West Rowan safety Daniel Sell made a huge play late in the third quarter, taking a blocked punt 35 yards for a touchdown. That touchdown tied the game at 20-all.

The Federico Cruz extra point that followed gave the Falcons a temporary 21-20 lead.

Statesville eventually won that game 34-28 and the Falcons’ conference championship drought continued, so the memory of Sell’s dramatic play has faded more than it probably should have.

Sell, who had a bright future ahead of him as a mechanic, firefighter and EMT, died at 22 on Friday, June 21. He was killed in an accident in West Virginia that also claimed the life of Jacob Steele, a 2014 West Rowan graduate, construction lineman and volunteer firefighter.

Sell was a good athlete, fast and left-handed. He played baseball and football from an early age.

When he got to high school, he was a receiver for West’s jayvee football team as a freshman. He was the starting quarterback for the jayvees as a sophomore.

Sell was moved to defense when he got to the varsity. He was only 5-foot-10 and about 155 pounds, but he played strong safety as a junior and free safety as a senior. As a senior in the fall of 2019, he made interceptions against Concord, Carson and East Rowan. He was a sure tackler and he was the holder for placekicker Federico Cruz.

Sell hunted and wrestled and found quite a bit of success as a baseball player for the Falcons.

He also played outfield and pitched for Rowan County American Legion and pitched for Rockingham Community College,

Sell’s best baseball season was as a junior in the spring of 2019. He was the lead-off man and center fielder for a 19-6 West team, batting .357 and adding 23 walks in 25 games for a stellar .526 on-base percentage. He made the All-Rowan County team. He didn’t pitch a lot, but he helped out a staff that relied on Daniel Durham and Cullen Davis. Sell earned one win and he struck out two batters per inning in his relief appearances. He threw very hard for his size.

In the summer of 2019, Sell played some in the outfield for Rowan County American Legion and won two games as a pitcher. When Rowan County played a very strong Davidson County team in the playoffs, Sell pitched to his cousin, Carson Simpson, who would be one of the standouts for Wingate’s 2021 national championship team.

Sell’s biggest baseball season would have come in the spring of 2020, his senior year at West. He got off to a great start with five hits and five walks at the plate in the first five games and he had nine strikeouts in 10 innings on the mound, but that was the season that was aborted by COVID.

There was no official American Legion baseball in the summer of 2020, so area Legion programs organized teams to play a league knowns as NC3.

Sell hadn’t pitched since March, but he tried hard to get ready as the NC3 team took shape. Throwing a bullpen, he suffered a pinch nerve in his left elbow. It healed with rest, and he finally got to pitch for the first time in Rowan’s 23rd game of what would be a 31-game summer. He had a good slider to go with his fastball and shined as a relief pitcher, posting an E.R.A. of 1.80. In Rowan’s last game that summer — there were no NC3 playoffs — Sell played center field and went 2-for-4 at Newman Park.

After that, Sell, who was a serious Mike Trout fan, had some good moments pitching for Rockingham Community College.

Some of Sell’s former teammates are playing for the Statesville Owls wood bat team this summer. They honored Sell on Saturday with “D-Sell” on their jerseys.

Memorial services were held on Friday, June 28.

Memorials may be made to Rowan-Iredell Fire Department, 5757 Chenault Rd., Cleveland, NC, 27013.