The term “steely resolve” is one of the most used clichés in sports. For Jets safety Yeremiah Bell, however, having a steel reserve is a way of life.
Bell, now entering his ninth season in the league, is settling into his first year with the Jets the only way he knows how — through hard work and determination. The Kentucky native was a lightly recruited player out of high school who failed to receive a single Division I scholarship offer. Bell said he “didn’t have the money” to pay to attend college so instead of heading to campus after graduation, he went to work at a steel factory in Winchester, Ky.
“It was a tough job, a tiring job that’s for sure. It’s not easy moving and working with steel,” Bell told Metro New York. “It was hard work with long hours, but it was fun. I met lots of great people there that made it fun. I didn’t despise it even if my body felt it every day after work.”
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He would wake up at 5:15 a.m. to be at work 45 minutes later and work a shift that didn’t end till 4:30 p.m. Five days a week, Bell’s job was on the press-side of the factory, where he would handle the sheets of metal and curve them for guard rails and tunnel liners.
He used to wake up on Sunday mornings and watch “The Roy Kidd Show,” the coach’s show of Eastern Kentucky’s head football coach. He “fell in love with it” and decided to walk on using the money from his factory job.
“He stood out definitely, in large part due to his speed. I think he ran a 4.3,” former Eastern Kentucky defensive coordinator Jim Tanara told Metro New York. “You could tell that he was a special kind of player from that tryout.”
He would shine in the Colonels’ secondary and become a sixth-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. Since then, he’s become one of the most consistent safeties in the NFL, registering over 100 tackles each of the past four seasons.
Tanara said that Bell’s unusual path to the NFL played a part in his success. Those long hours in the steel factory helped not only to physically shape the then teenager, but also prepared him mentally. To this day, Bell still visits his friends at the steel factory, just to stop by and catch-up with old co-workers. Just a few weeks before signing with the Jets, Bell paid a visit to the factory.
He never pursued college football as a means to getting to the NFL. College was first and foremost on his mind when he enrolled at the school and everything else was secondary.
“Those two years at the steel mill, they taught me about the value of hard work, of showing up every day and doing what I’m supposed to do,” Bell said. “If I wanted things in life, I had to earn them. I’ve never forgotten that and I’ve never forgotten those moments.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for all your offseason news from Gang Green.