The purpose of today’s blog is simple: to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and to wish Happy Birthday to a Michigan Man named Gordon G. Bell.
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 pound-for-pound he was always one of the toughest. Bell 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 G. Bell didn’t earn any starts in 1973, but he played in ten games. He rushed for 464 yards on 88 carries. Gordon scored four touchdowns and averaged just over five yards (5.3) per carry in his first year on the varsity. 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 G. 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. Yes, both men played a lot of football and gained a lot of yards for Michigan that season. Interestingly, Bell, the part-time starter 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.
Gordon Bell was the featured tailback for the 1975 season. He started all twelve games that year and did some very special things for Michigan. He became the second man in Michigan History to rush for over 1,000 yards 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.
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 G. 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 left Michigan with his head held high because he played on two Big Ten champion teams, earned three varsity letters and earned some conference honors. In addition to all of that, he also set some important records at Michigan. Here are the “firsts” that Gordon G. Bell achieved while playing for the Wolverines:
- Gordon Bell teamed with Rob Lytle to become the first duo in Michigan Football History to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season (1975).
- Bell, and Lytle, were also the first pair of running backs to rush for at least 100-yards each in four games in one season (1975).
- Gordon Bell, Rob Lytle and Harlan Huckleby were the first Michigan running back trio to rush for at least 100-yards in a 69-0 sin over Northwestern on October 18, 1975.
- Bell was the first back in Michigan Football history to record 273 rushing attempts in one season in 1975.
- Gordon Bell was the first Wolverine running back to record eight 100-yard (or more) rushing games in one season in 1975.
- Bell was the first man to record over 1,700 all-purpose yards in 1975 with 1,714.
Yes, 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 G. Bell is celebrating his birthday with family and friends today. Thanks for the memories Gordon Bell. Go Blue!