Our hearts ache for Bell, Bulldog family

Five weeks ago, Nick Bell played in a college football game.

In fact, he started at defensive end for Mississippi State in its 24-12 win over Georgia.

It was the start of what has been one of the most successful runs for Mississippi State’s football team in a long time. They’ve won six straight games and are No. 20 this week in the BCS standings.

But the cheers have been replaced by tears all across Mississippi State’s campus.

Tragically, Bell died Tuesday at the age of 20, losing his fight with cancer.

He’d undergone emergency surgery on Monday after taking a turn for the worse. The cancer had spread throughout his body. Several of his teammates and university officials went to see him on Monday night at the UAB Hospital in Birmingham.

Bell was just barely hanging on and unable to communicate. But during the time that his teammates were there, his heart rate spiked.

By Tuesday afternoon, he was gone.

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen delivered the somber news to the players in a team meeting. The Bulldogs were practicing this afternoon, as much as anything to get away from the pain of losing their teammate.

Again, Bell was right there with them in the huddle five weeks ago. He was on the sideline two weeks ago for the UAB game and looked fine.

Coming to grips with the fact that he’s now gone, so fast and so young, is mind-numbing.

My heart goes out to Bell’s family, the Mississippi State family and all the people who had the pleasure of getting to know Bell.

“This is a tragedy for Nick’s family, our football program, our community and everyone who had the privilege to meet and be around Nick Bell,” Mullen said. “Nick was a son and a brother to our football family, and I know he will continue to look over us from Heaven.

“Nick lived his life like a champion and will always be remembered in our hearts that way. During this impossible time, we pray for Nick’s family and all those he has touched.”

Funeral arrangements have not been announced by the family at this time, but the Mississippi State athletic department will establish a memorial fund for the Bell family through the Bulldog Club. More details will be available online at www.mstateathletics.com, and donations can be made by calling 662-325-3074.

The athletic department will also deliver messages and cards sent to the family. The mailing address is P.O. Box 5308, Mississippi State, MS, 39762.