The purpose of today’s blog is simple: to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and to wish Gordon Bell a Happy Birthday. I hope that you have a very special day with family and friends today as we celebrate one of the holiest days of the year.
Gordon Granville Bell was born on this day in Troy, Ohio. He grew up to be a big Buckeye fan, but didn’t grow to be very big. However, what Gordon Bell lacked in size (5’ 9” and 175 pounds), he compensated for it with speed, agility and grit. He wasn’t the biggest man on the field in high school, but he was tough. Gordon was an outstanding high school football player at Troy High School.
Bell was one of Bo’s top recruits in 1971 and the determined Bell enrolled at Michigan in 1972. He did not play or letter as a freshman, but the coaches knew who he was after his freshman season.
Gordon Bell didn’t earn any starts in 1973, but he played in ten games. He rushed for 464 yards on 88 carries. Sophomore Gordon Bell scored four touchdowns and averaged just over five yards (5.3) per carry. He earned his first letter and played on Team #94 that went 10-0-1 and tied for first place in the Big Ten Conference. Of course, that was the year that the conference athletic directors voted Ohio State to the Rose Bowl, not Michigan!
Bo Schembechler had a problem in 1974, but it was a good problem to have. He had two outstanding Buckeye tailbacks. One was named Rob Lytle and the other was Gordon Bell. Both men could carry the rock and Bo decided that they both deserved to play – a lot!
Rob Lytle started eight games in 1974 and Gordon Bell started three. Both men played a lot of football and gained a lot of yards for Michigan. Interestingly, the part-time starter Bell played in all eleven games and led Michigan in rushing with 1,048 yards on 174 carries. He averaged six yards per carry and scored a team-leading eleven touchdowns. His outstanding play helped Michigan finish the season with a record of 10 wins and 1 defeat. They won a share of the Big Ten title for the third consecutive season. Life was good for Wolverine Nation.
Gordon Bell would be the featured tailback for the 1975 season. He started all twelve games that year and did some very special things for Michigan. He led Michigan in rushing for the second straight year by amassing 1,390 yards on 273 carries. Once again, Bell averaged over five yards per carry (5.1) and scored fourteen touchdowns. He also teamed with Rob Lytle to become the first duo in Michigan football history to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.
Gordon’s achievements did not go unnoticed in 1975. He finished the season as the Big Ten’s leading rusher which meant that Heisman winner Archie Griffin finished second to Bell. Gordon Bell earned first team All-Big Ten honors from the Associated Press and finished eighth in the Heisman voting. His teammates voted him the Most Valuable Player for the 1975 season.
The talented Bell ended his career in style. He set the single-season record for all-purpose yards in 1975 with 1,714. He recorded thirteen 100-yard rushing games which is still eighth all-time at Michigan. Gordon teamed up with Rob Lytle to post five games where they both rushed for one-hundred yards. His career best game was against Wisconsin in 1975 when he rushed for 210 yards and averaged 7.5 yards per carry. I could go on and on about the achievements of Gordon Bell. His name is literally all over the Michigan football record book. Bottom line − he was a very talented running back who gave Bo Schembechler everything he had!
Of course, the best description of Bell’s running skills came from Bob Ufer. The inimitable Ufer simply said that Bell “could run for fifteen minutes in a phone booth and never touch the sides.” Gordon Bell was a special player at Michigan – that’s for sure! I hope that Gordon Bell is celebrating his birthday with family and friends on December 25, 2016. Thanks for the memories Gordon Bell. Go Blue!