One of the new faces in Pope John Paul II’s lineup this season is not new to the program.
However, Chris Bell is still making the transition into a starting role with the Knights.
Bell transferred to PJP II from East Nashville during the offseason, marking a return to the school he originally attended before leaving after his sophomore season in 2014.
As it turned out, Bell came back for more than just an opportunity to get on the field.
“Academically, I didn’t really feel that I fit in at East (Nashville),” Bell said. “I feel like it’s so much better here (at PJP II).”
He already has fit in with the Knights in a short time.
“He’s played his role well,” senior quarterback Ben Brooks said. “We knew he’d be a big-time player when he came here, and he’s showed out. He’s played really well.”
He had to earn his playing time again upon his return to the program, though.
“He has done a good job responding to what we’ve talked to him about,” Pope John Paul II head coach Justin Geisinger said. “We told him that if he’s going to come back to this program, he’s going to do it the right way. He’s going to be in it for (PJP II) first and that’s what he’s done so far.”
Bell didn’t have a ton of varsity experience under his belt entering his senior season, so each practice and game is still a learning process.
“I’ve got to keep working hard in practice every day,” Bell said. “I’ve been going through the motions of trying to get better.”
Geisinger added, “I explained to him that he doesn’t have a lot, if any, varsity snaps under his belt. He’s done well at camps, and he knows that he needs to come out and show some people that he can play on Friday nights, first. I think he has every intention of doing that.”
So far, he has shown that potential. Bell has 11 tackles and an interception through two games and the 6-foot-3, 188-pound senior has made an immediate impact on defense, where he’s drawing interest from college programs as a safety. The Knights are 2-0 after victories over Melrose and Coffee County.
“I feel like they were two good games to show what I’ve been working on (during the offseason),” Bell said. “We were trying to show what we’ve been doing to get ready for the season.”
Bell has been in contact with Clemson and Ole Miss as well as South Carolina, who extended the initial scholarship offer to him after a visit to the Will Muschamp Football Camp in July.
Tennessee State, Jackson State, Tennessee-Martin and Tennessee Tech have also extended offers, while other SEC schools have also shown interest.
“It’s been a blessing, really,” Bell said. “Freshman year, I didn’t think any of this would really happen.”
Reach Chris Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 615-575-7118. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @CB_SumnerSports, and on Snapchat @cbrooksgne.