Former UK Football Player Has Special Connection With Current Team

07/15/2017 01:00 PM

Cat for life.

It’s something many Kentucky fans claim, but only a certain few can truly live out. Jerry Bell is now one of those fans.

If his name sounds familiar, you likely know him not for his fandom, but for his on the field exploits.

“He was my first roommate in the summer when I reported to Kentucky,” said former UK quarterback Freddie Maggard. “You’ve got to realize that Jerry Bell is probably the biggest personality that’s ever gone through the Kentucky football program. So, in those days, you didn’t meet each other. There’s no social media beforehand, so I report to UK. In pulls this Aztec gold Monte Carlo with the music blaring, Jerry Bell swivels out of his seat and here’s this 6’4”, 300 pound mammoth guy. Walks upstairs; I’m his roommate and he basically says if I touch his stuff that he would kill me and we’ve been best friends from that point on.”

Jerry, or Haus as his friends call him was a defensive lineman for the Wildcats from 1987 to 1991. By all accounts he was fun to be around, but not so fun to play against.

“Jerry was mean. He was often penalized. If Jerry played in today’s game he’d play about three quarters a year, because he targeted, he face masked, he late hit, body slammed people,” Maggard recalled. “He actually gave me a concussion in a scrimmage before their opening game and I was on his team, so yeah. He was a hard hitter, very aggressive and a freakish athlete to be that big. Jerry could move really well and just a strong, really good football player.”

Still to this day Bell moves well, all things considered. Six years after he wrapped up his career at Kentucky, Bell was accidentally shot in the head and given just a fifteen percent chance to survive. Friends like Maggard made their way to the University of Louisville Hospital to say their goodbyes.

Today, Bell can speak some and walk short distances on his own, though he is paralyzed on his right side. Despite being limited, he’s still just Haus to his friends.

“The thing about Jerry is he can communicate a little bit, but he’s still really strong on one side, so you’ve got to realize when you’re around Jerry to get on his not strong side because he will grab you and still throw you around,” Maggard explained. “A couple of years ago I made the mistake at a UK game to lean down to talk to him and he was in his wheelchair, so he grabbed my hat with his good hand and he threw my hat onto the field. So the same shenanigans are going on today as they were 25 years ago.”

Despite his hardships, he has an infectious smile and a love for Kentucky football.

“He’s always wearing the blue, always talking about his glory days,” said Dawn Felty, Bell’s longtime girlfriend and caretaker.

It took him several years after his accident before he was able to make it back to a game, but when he did, it changed everything

“It was filled with emotion. I think it was- we relived a lot that day. And there was some tears, from both of us. I wasn’t sure if it was something we should visit. So we let it go for a year, the next year we went to another game,” Felty told KSTV. “Totally different reaction. It was excitement, it was anticipation, it was that look in his eye. The light, like a switch. That passion. And he wanted out on the field, he didn’t understand why he couldn’t put a helmet on and go out there. he would pull himself up in our seats to get near that field and and it was… it took my breath away. every emotion, to see that and I was like ‘we’ve got to get season tickets’ and ten years now. Every year. Every game. We go.”

And the players have noticed their support.

“I have never seen him miss anything that has to do with UK football and that means a lot to us knowing that we have fans like that that will sacrifice everything to be there for us,” said UK sophomore offensive tackle, Landon Young.

Bell has formed relationships with former and current players, but he took a special liking to Young.

“It’s a unique relationship but you know, he’s the guy that he’ll come up to me and pull on my arm and I’ll just give it right back to him and you know, I sit there and talk with Dawn all the time and she’s just a sweet lady and he’s awesome himself and just being able to keep the relationship and be someone I can always go see before the game and after the game and talk to and talk to anything about and that’s what made our relationship so special,” Young added.

Though he’d like to still be on the field making tackles, Felty says Kentucky football has helped him heal. As much as he lights up on game day, he brings that to others as well.

“The fans like it, the players like it. You know, because so many people have heard the legendary stories of Jerry Bell. it’s good for them to see the person and see hi back around the program. I love it. I love it when he’s back around, it actually motivates me to see him,” Maggard said.

Young echoed the statement.

“It’s awesome being able to see him do that and just lighten up and it makes it- gives me a smile on my face whether its a win or a loss, you know, being able to go talk to him after brightens up everything.”

Watch Bell’s full story here:

Lyndsey Gough

Lyndsey is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News. You can catch Lyndsey’s work on Sports Night, the only nightly show dedicated to covering everything from high school to college sports in Kentucky. She loves covering all sports but it’s the personal stories that really stand out to Lyndsey, like the story of a community coming together to remember high school track start Trinity Gay who was killed. Lyndsey came to Spectrum News from WBKO in Bowling Green where she was an Anchor, Reporter and Producer covering news and sports. She’s a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of UK. Sports Night airs at 6:30 and 10:30 weeknights on Spectrum News. If you have a story idea for Lyndsey email her at Lyndsey.gough@charter.com.

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