April 26, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State junior running back Le'Veon Bell, who led the Big Ten and ranked third in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing at 137.9 yards per game, has been selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round (No. 48 overall) of the 2013 National Football League Draft Friday, April 26. Bell, who announced his decision to forgo his senior season on Jan. 3, became the second running back chosen in the 2013 NFL Draft, behind only North Carolina's Giovani Bernard (No. 37 overall by Cincinnati). He also became the third Spartan running back to be drafted in Mark Dantonio's first six seasons as head coach, joining Javon Ringer (2009: Tennessee Titans - fifth round) and Edwin Baker (2012: San Diego Chargers - seventh round).
Bell becomes the highest-drafted offensive player from Michigan State since wide receiver Devin Thomas was selected in the second round (No. 34 overall) by the Washington Redskins in 2008. Michigan State has had at least one player chosen every year since the inception of the common NFL Draft in 1967.
A first-team All-Big Ten selection (coaches and media) and Doak Walker Award semifinalist, Bell rushed 382 times for 1,793 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 1,793 rushing yards ranked fifth in the NCAA FBS and marked the second-highest single-season total in MSU history. He led the NCAA FBS in carries (382) - the third-best single-season total in school history and fourth highest in Big Ten record book. Bell accounted for 92 percent of Michigan State's rushing yards (1,793 of 1,942) and 78 percent of its rushing attempts (382 of 492) in 2012.
An All-America selection by CollegeFootballNews.com (first team), Phil Steele (fourth team) and SI.com (honorable mention), Bell was named recipient of the 2012 Elite Running Back Trophy (National Running Back of the Year) by the College Football Performance Awards.
The 6-foot-2, 237-pound Bell was one of just four players in the NCAA FBS to produce three 200-yard rushing games in 2012 (Toledo's David Fluellen, Air Force's Cody Getz, Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews). He also became only the second Spartan to post three 200-yard rushing games in a season (Lorenzo White: school-record four times in 1985). Bell recorded eight 100-yard rushing games - the second-highest single-season total in MSU history.
According to STATS, Bell gained 922 of his 1,793 rushing yards (51 percent) after contact, which ranked first among all NCAA FBS running backs, and broke 16 tackles. In addition, he produced 82 first downs and 34 runs of 10 or more yards, including 13 gains of 20 or more yards.
Bell ranked second in the Big Ten and 14th in the NCAA FBS in all-purpose yards, averaging 155.7 yards per game. His 2,024 all-purpose yards marked the fourth-highest single-season total in Spartan history. He also ranked among the conference leaders in rushing TDs (tied for fourth with 12) and total offense (10th at 140.2 ypg.). A complete back, his 32 receptions (167 yards) ranked fifth on the team.
The Columbus, Ohio, native produced the top single-game total in the NCAA FBS this season for carries (44 vs. Boise State) and eighth-most rushing yards (266 vs. Minnesota).
"Le'Veon Bell is a complete football player," Dantonio said. "He led the Big Ten and finished third in the nation with nearly 1,800 rushing yards. With more than 380 carries, Le'Veon proved his physical durability. He is a proven commodity as a pass receiver out of the backfield, a solid pass-blocker and someone who can contribute on special teams. With his versatility, Le'Veon can have an impact in a lot of different ways."
"I was so excited to hear Mike Tomlin on the line," Bell said. "It's a dream come true to be selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coach Tomlin said the organization loved the way I ran. He was surprised that I was still available and said the Steelers couldn't pass me up. It's the best phone call I've ever received.
"Coach Tomlin and I first met at the NFL Combine. It was there that I first learned how much the team liked my running style and pass-catching ability out of the backfield. I had another opportunity to visit with him around our Pro Day, but you never know about the draft process. I'm just glad that it turned out the way that it did. I'm beyond happy."
Bell was selected Offensive Player of the Game after accounting for 187 combined yards (rushing, passing and receiving) in the Spartans' 17-16 come-from-behind victory over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. He carried 32 times for 145 yards against the Horned Frogs, with 107 of those rushing yards coming in the second half including a 4-yard TD run that gave MSU its first lead at 14-13 with 7:00 left in the fourth quarter. His 32 rushing attempts and 145 rushing yards mark the fifth-highest single-game bowl totals in Spartan history. He became the first Spartan back to post a 100-yard rushing game in a bowl since Ringer carried 21 times for 101 yards against Boston College in the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl. Bell also completed a 29-yard pass to TyQuan Hammock to set up MSU's first TD and caught two passes for 13 yards.
During the 2012 regular-season, Bell was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week three times (Aug. 31 vs. Boise State; Sept. 22 vs. Eastern Michigan; Nov. 24 vs. Minnesota).
He rushed 35 times for a career-high 266 yards - the most by a Big Ten player in 2012 - and a TD in MSU's 26-10 win at Minnesota, as the Spartans became bowl eligible for a school record sixth-straight season. Bell was named CFPA National Running Back of the Week and Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week for his career day against the Gophers. His 266 rushing yards are the sixth-highest single-game total in MSU history. Bell carried the ball eight consecutive plays (for 51 yards) and capped off an 11-play, 57-yard drive with an 8-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter that iced the game for the Spartans. He also ripped off runs of 26, 40 and 30 yards against the Gophers while accounting for a career-best 275 all-purpose yards - the ninth-best single-game total in MSU history.
Bell ran 32 times for 133 yards against Northwestern.
He gained 188 yards on 36 carries and scored two rushing TDs (runs of 11 yards and 1 yard) in MSU's 28-24 loss to No. 21 Nebraska. It marked his third multi-TD game of the season. Bell also broke runs of 23, 40 and 26 yards against the Cornhuskers.
With 77 yards on 21 carries in MSU's 16-13 overtime victory at Wisconsin, he eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing milestone for the first time in his career. Bell became the 13th running back (21 times combined) in Spartan history to record a 1,000-yard rushing season. His first career TD reception came on a 5-yard shovel pass from Andrew Maxwell with 1:08 left in the fourth quarter and sent the game into overtime tied at 10.
Bell carried 29 times for 140 yards and a TD against Iowa. It marked his second-straight 100-yard rushing game against the Hawkeyes (20 rushes for 112 yards in 2011).
He rushed for a game-high 121 rushing yards on 37 attempts in MSU's 31-27 win at Indiana. The 37 carries were the second most in his career (44 vs. Boise State).
Bell set career highs for receptions (8) and receiving yards (58) in a 17-16 loss to Ohio State.
He earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors after rushing for 253 yards (36 carries) and a TD in MSU's 23-7 victory over Eastern Michigan. His 253 yards mark the seventh-highest single-game rushing total in school history.
Bell scored on first-half TD runs of 1 and 7 yards as MSU rolled to a 24-0 halftime lead en route to a 41-7 win at Central Michigan.
He was named CBSSports.com's Heisman Player of the Week and Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 210 yards on a career-best 44 carries in MSU's 17-13 victory over No. 24 Boise State in the season opener. Bell outgained the entire Boise State offense, 210-206, and 84 of his 210 yards came after contact. His 210 rushing yards also were the most by a Big Ten running back in a season opener since Purdue's Ralph Bolden in 2009 (234 vs. Toledo) and the most by a Spartan in an opener since T.J. Duckett in 2000 (219 vs. Marshall). He also had six catches for 55 yards against the Broncos.
Michigan State went 18-3 (.857) when Bell scored at least one rushing TD (2010: 5-0; 2011: 7-1; and 2012: 6-2).
Bell rushed for 3,346 yards and 33 TDs in 40 career games. He finished his career ranked among MSU's all-time leaders in rushing TDs (sixth with 33), rushing attempts (sixth with 671), rushing yards (seventh with 3,346) and all-purpose yards (ninth with 4,114). Bell had 12 career 100-yard rushing games, which is eighth most in MSU history. Bell also had 78 career receptions for 531 yards (6.8 avg.) and one score.
Below are quotes from Friday's teleconference with Le'Veon Bell following his draft selection to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On his reaction when he got the phone call from the Pittsburgh Steelers...
Once I first got the phone call, (head coach) Mike Tomlin said, `Le'Veon, are you ready?' And I knew at that moment that I was going to get picked...I'm happy to be a Steeler, and so is my family.
On if he knew he was going to the Steelers after they took him out to dinner at MSU's Pro Day in March, and if he grew up a Steelers fan...
At the dinner, Coach Tomlin, he was real interested in me, I could tell. I didn't know how interested he was, but I knew he was definitely interested in drafting me. I knew I had a chance to go there.
Growing up, my whole family was Steeler fans. They're ecstatic I'm with the Steelers.
On his family's reaction to him going to the Steelers...
(Everyone) was screaming and yelling. Everybody was just so ecstatic. It's so crazy that I ended up getting drafted to the Steelers, because they grew up Steeler fans. My grandpa, and my mom is over here crying, and they had me in tears too. It's like the happiest day of my life. I'm glad that I achieved my goal and going to Pittsburgh and being a Steeler.
On if the Steelers want him to be like a Jerome Bettis-type of running back...
I just want to be the best player that I can possibly be. I don't want to say I will be like Jerome Bettis or I will be like some other running back. I'm going to go there and I'm going to be Le'Veon Bell. I'm going to give them the best that I can possibly give them. They drafted me. They loved the way I run the ball, they love that I can catch out of the backfield.
On Jerome Bettis tweeting about Le'Veon Bell following the draft selection...
He tweeted me? I didn't even see. I haven't been on Twitter yet. The fact that he was tweeting me is crazy, I mean it's Jerome Bettis, a Hall of Fame running back. I'm honored. It's an honor that he congratulated me and I'm going to make sure I look at it, and I'll tweet him back.