Nick Bellore will be critical in stopping Carolina return man Ted Ginn. Credit: Getty Images
On the surface, Nick Bellore is the clean-cut, All-American guy. But on the inside, he admits there is a little crazy inside of him that surfaces on special teams.
It has made him one of the best special teams players in the league and pivotal for the Jets. He has 13 tackles on special teams this year, fifth in the league.
Bellore usually plays as the “3” on the kickoff team, so he runs down the numbers with two players on either side. Unlike many players on kickoff duty who have complex assignments, Bellore has a simple one: Run to the ball. No flanking, no taking on would-be blockers. Nothing intricate or fancy.
Just run to the ball.
“It is probably the most dangerous play in all of sports,” Bellore said. “But it something I've been doing now for a few years. It really is just football wrapped into one. Blocking, tackling — everything you want. It is a mindset.”
At this point, Bellore has to stop speaking as linebacker Troy Davis yells at him from the other side of the locker room and stops the interview. He has no idea what Bellore is talking about when he loudly chimes in.
“I aspire to play like that man on special teams,” Davis said. “The way you accelerate to the ball, oh man.”
Other teammates around nod their heads and smile. Bellore's job doesn't get much coverage in the media or notice by fans, but it is much appreciated in the locker room.
Bellore never played special teams in college at Central Michigan, where he was named All-MAC First Team three times, or at Whitefish Bay High School in Milwaukee, Wis.
During high school, legendary head coach Jim Tietjen recalls Bellore being an impact player. In the first exhibition game of his senior year, Bellore made every tackle on the first 10 plays of the game. Even a broken hand in the first game of the season didn't keep him off the field.
In one game, Bellore knocked a pass up into the air with his arm in the cast and made the interception with his good hand.
“He had a thirst for getting to the ball, even as a freshman,” Tietjen said. “Always, he went for the ball. You never had to teach him that.
“Nick had the desire to be a good player and the work ethic. He did everything he possibly could to be a good tackler. He worked on his form, he worked on his strength, his mobility, his agility. He was always working on it.”
Ellis Lankster called Bellore “the best tackler on the team, best I've probably ever seen.” He says that once he wraps up a player “he is definitely not letting go.”
Bellore sort of shrugs at the mentality. In fact, he credits Lankster and Isaiah Trufant for their work on special teams in letting him shine.
“That's what I'm asked to do. I've always made a lot of tackles, whether at linebacker or now special teams. It wasn't always flashy but I've been productive,” Bellore said. “But we're competitive, whether with Ellis or Trufant. We've got a good unit and we're competitive. That helps. We want to support each other, help each other.”
Bellore is on the quieter side in the locker room but line him up on kickoffs and he becomes a different man.
“I just love it. It can change a game,” Bellore said. “Changes field position, creates a turnover — whatever it is. I'm asked to do it and I love to do it now.”