A few minutes with Bobby Bell

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Despite his presence in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Bobby Bell might still not be getting the credit that he deserves as a dominant football player.  Hank Stram said that Bell was the only player that he has ever coached that could excel at any position on the football field.

Bobby Bell did this interview with the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in which he discusses his entry into professional football, and his settling into the linebacker position.

Todd Tobias (789 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

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9 Responses to A few minutes with Bobby Bell

  1. 1967 says:

    If a picture paints a thousand words, Bobby Bell was the Picasso of and on the gridiron, an artist of many colors and an athlete to be sure.

    Where to begin? How about here: listed 6’4 228 (probably moreso 6’3-ish/215), watched him catch some guy named Lance Alworth (from behind) in a game early on both HOF player’s careers. That wasn’t supposed to happen, 1960’s more so, an OLB overtaking a ‘fast’ WR.

    Seeing him on rare (comparison today) occasions rush the QB was no less a kick than seeing Lawrence Taylor/Derrick Thomas do the same later. Bell was quick – think Thomas and his renowned first step artificial turf – except Bobby did it on grass the majority/till end his career, sans any advantage takeoff afforded by turf.

    He was a complete player: the best open-field tackler of his time according most, able drop into coverage (26 career ints, 2 of those as a DE his short time at that position – and 6 td returns); Bell also found time to return a onside kick for a td… showoff.

    Don’t want to knock any other player(s) because in a room full of HOFr’s, no one comes in second, my opine. That said, Bobby Bell wasn’t a one-trick pony compared guys who made their rep on ‘sacks’, but came up well short in other areas some of them, to include run support and/or pass coverage. Bell did it all, and in my opinion did it better than any other OLB who has ever played.

    Hank Stram called him the best athlete on the team, one who could play every position. That Bell also did KC’s kick-snapping in lieu an true center (this skill a position that today is reserved for specialists) was also of note.

    # 78 was also recognizable for another reason: he wore those ‘old school cool’ high tops ala Johnny Unitas. In an Chiefs white tape wrapped upon black shoes wearing world spats like Fred Williamson & Frank Pitts among others wore (and yeah, they looked cool too), the man in the high tops stood out even more so, for his impact on the field.

    Two things that I recall with a bit of curiosity and some incredulity too are –

    Bobby once said (paraphrasing) that he let himself get out of shape one time in his career (hard to believe of a guy sporting a 27 inch waist according reports of the time); believe twas an ankle-related problem that led to the high tops.

    The other thing was something that appeared in the KC Star newspaper post 1974 season, upon Bobby’s release (a time when Stram and several other older Chiefs players were given exit.) The writer (paraphrasing) stated “Bell never learned the intricacies of playing LB but made up for it with his speed & athleticism.” Backhanded compliment on its face, while that opine could have merit principle, there have been many great athletes who simply could not play football – Bobby Bell was certainly not one of them.

    The only thing Bell did wrong in his career as I see it, was signing with the Oakland Raiders 1975, where he played pre-season games before likely realizing “hey, I’m a Chief… what the heck am I doing out here?”

  2. 1967 says:

    High tops vs high tops – ‘another play’ with Bobby Bell, his prime:


  3. John Spoulos says:

    Hey Todd, just wanted to commend you on such great reporting. It has always been amazing to me after our phone call a few months ago, that you report with such accuracy on the AFL even though you were not born during its heyday. It is among the finest websites I have seen and you are very much appreciated by all of us who were alive to witness that great league. Thank you for your professionalism. I admire you.. John

  4. Virgil Baldon, Jr. says:

    WOW…Bobby Bell at long snapper with (and this was the regular late ’60s lineup on field goals for KC) Buck Buchanan at LG and Curley Culp or Ed Lothamer at RG…no wonder Stenerud and Dawson didn’t worry about kicks being blocked!

  5. Tom says:

    The 1963 Draft was a break out year for the AFL, especially the Cheifs with Dave Hill, Jerrel Wilson, Buck and Bell. They also drafted George Saimes and one of my all time favorites James Preacher Pilot. Sadly Preacher left it all on the field in Las Cruces and did not play a single regular season down in the pros.

    • Who’s James Preacher Pilot? What can you tell me about him? Is he a minister?

      As I type this, I’m also thinking of Jerry “The Rev” Harris from one of my all-time favorite movies, “Remember the Titans.” Did Preacher Pilot play a role on his team similar to that of “The Rev?”

      • Tom says:

        There’s a SI Vault article written by Robert Creamer in 1962 on Preacher Pilot title “Pistol Pete meets Prreacher Pilot.”

        Several other pieces written of him as well, just search his name and experience the past.

  6. Jimax says:

    Bell was a killer on screen passes. Many of his greatest hits were on running backs in the backfield. If he couldn’t intercept it, he creamed the back for a loss.

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