ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- He scored his first touchdown of the season and in the back of his mind, Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell knew what he wanted to do. He has always tried to get the crowd involved, so into the crowd he went.
Bell ran to the corner of the end zone after a 2-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and tried to leap into the stands. After he told fans to help him up instead of hitting his shoulders, he stood up and started moving his arms back and forth hoping the crowd would follow.
Bell’s “Hip Hop Hooray” touchdown celebration was born.
“I wanted to make that my tradition thing here,” Bell said. “I had something how I was going to end it, something like ‘Hey, ho, hey, ho’ twice and then start the wave going around. But I don’t know.”
Bell has much to celebrate these days. This is what he had wanted to do since he first started playing youth football as an 8-year-old in Benton Harbor, Mich. It was what he thought of the first time he received his helmet and shoulder pads. What he wanted when he boarded a bus that first season, passing a bunch of other youth players in shoulder pads and helmets while heading to a tournament.
Being in the NFL had always been a thought since his father, Joique Bell Sr., played football with him as a kid. It was Bell Sr., too, who offered advice as his son took a somewhat unorthodox route to the NFL, starting at Wayne State and then bouncing from Buffalo to Philadelphia to Indianapolis, then back to Philadelphia again, to New Orleans and finally Detroit in his first two NFL seasons.
The message of Bell Sr., now a pastor? Stay focused. You will get a chance. Bell Sr. said he told his son a story about himself, a former boxer.
"I told him, 'Son, I’ve never been in shape for a fight,'" Bell Sr. said. “He said, ‘What?’ I said, 'I've never had to get in shape for a fight." He said, 'Why?' I said, 'Because I stayed in shape my whole life. I dedicated my life, boxing, dedicated my life to it.' Whenever a fight was available, I was available.
"I was always ready because I trained every day. I think that kind of sunk in."
Bell always had confidence. He was always ready. Had to be. Bell never doubted his ability or that eventually he would find a role with an NFL team. His stop in New Orleans is what really gave him the belief it would work out somewhere, somehow.
Bell said Saints coach Sean Payton told him, when he released him, they kept him on the roster because he played well enough they felt they had to.
“Same guy,” said Detroit running back Reggie Bush, who played with him in New Orleans. “Just getting a different opportunity now. And that’s what it’s about. Sometimes certain situations don’t work out because of the opportunity or you might be the third or fourth guy down the line.
“You just have to work your way up the food chain.”
He was just figuring that out when Detroit signed him later in 2011. He had his first regular-season carry with the Lions last year, eventually gaining 414 yards and scoring three touchdowns. When the team brought him back this season, Bell had a role.
He had a home -- one a few hours from where he grew up in Benton Harbor and in the same city he played his college football. He became a local presence on the Lions.
This goes back to Sunday. To the celebration he wants to make his own. To who he says he plays for.
“When I go out there, I’m not just playing for myself,” Bell said. “I’m playing for the Detroit organization. I’m playing for the Detroit community and the fans are the Detroit community. So I want to get them involved as much as possible.”
Watching his son celebrate, Bell Sr. said he cringed. Not because he doesn’t appreciate what his son is doing. He does. He just doesn’t want his kid to get hurt.
“It’d be different if it was all padded,” Bell Sr. said. “But no, no. Do it son, do it because he’s excited about being in the NFL and excited, he’s full of life like that.
“Just direct them from the end zone. On the ground.”
The son might be taking Dad's advice. Bell said this week he’s contemplating continuing the celebration from the field if he were to keep it up.
Why wouldn’t he? He doesn’t want to anger his coaching staff or potentially get a penalty. If they say he’s good, then the party could continue every time Bell scores this season.
After two years of floating through the NFL, he has playing time, a role spelling Bush and a potential celebration that fits his personality. Oh, and after Sunday, his first two-touchdown game in the pros.
It's a long way from being a kid playing youth football in Benton Harbor.
“Just to see it is overwhelming,” Bell Sr. said. “To see him do his thing on national TV, you know, I’m blown out of the water.
“Not surprised by it, but like, 'Wow, he’s there. He did it.'"