E.A. Sports Today

A sporting life well lived

Wellborn standout Bell excelled in multiple sports, went on to Alabama where he and freshman roommate Mal Moore often spent free weekends back in Anniston

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a weeklong series highlighting the inductees of the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2017. Earlier stories focused on Chip Howell, Mike Deerman and Ricky Weems.

By Jay Pace
For East Alabama Sports Today

While there’s no official guide rating all of the great athletes native to Calhoun County, the name Stanley Bell must be included in the pantheon of legendary sports figures hailing from this area.

If, in fact, such a list existed the name “Stanley Bell” would rank somewhere near the top. And Saturday night at the Oxford Civic Center, his legacy will be forever enshrined as a member of the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame.

Bell will join five other local luminaries in the 13th induction class. The other inductees include Mike Deerman, Billy Ferguson, Chip Howell, Jerry Ray and Ricky Weems.

“I call Stanley my claim to fame,” says younger brother Lelton who will accept the honor on his brother’s behalf. Stanley passed away in 2014 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.


A multi-sport athlete at Wellborn High School, Bell not only played four sports, he was the star athlete on every one of those teams. His list of athletic achievements is both lengthy and impressive.

“He couldn’t change a tire,” Lelton offers with a slight chuckle. “But he could catch a football.”

That’s not all.

As a senior at Wellborn, Bell was named the county’s lineman of the year in 1957 and was one of only two seniors unanimously selected to the All-County team. The Birmingham News named him second team all-state.

And that was just football.

Bell also played first base and hit over .400 for the baseball team and ran the 440-yard dash as a member of the Panthers’ track team. And if all that’s not sufficiently impressive, add to the resume he played in the Wigwam Wisemen East-West All-America basketball game in Kansas following a stellar senior year on the hardwood.

Bear Bryant, for one, was impressed. Enough said.

“Stanley had a gift; he really did,” says Lelton. “He was just a wonderful guy. A mama’s boy at heart.”

Bell answered Bryant’s call and signed a scholarship to play football at Alabama in 1958. He was part of a storied signing class that laid the foundation for Bryant’s legendary run as Alabama’s football coach.

A once proud program, Alabama suffered through some dark years that included four straight losing seasons and just four total wins in the three seasons before Bryant returned to lead his alma mater in the fall of 1958. When he retired 25 years later, Bryant was regarded as the greatest coach of all time winning more than 300 games and an unprecedented six national championships — all of which came at Alabama.

That 1958 signing class inspired a Tom Stoddard book entitled “Turnaround. Bear Bryant’s First Season at Alabama.” The book detailed not only Bryant’s inaugural season but the important role Bell’s signing class played in lifting him and Alabama to a dominant 25-year run as the nation’s top football program.

But, wait, there’s more. With Stanley Bell, it seemed there was always more — more sports to play, more games to win, more honors to accrue, setting another record, winning another game, making another shot, scoring another touchdown, hitting another home run.

That’s what Stanley Bell did.

Well before the days of multi-year, $100 million television contracts, the zone read option offense and choreographed end zone celebrations, football was just football. It was a rough game played by grown men with little regard for their bodies or their NFL draft status; a different game from a different era.

Back in those days, college freshmen were forbidden from playing on the varsity level. So, during his first year at Alabama, Bell played for the Crimson Tide’s freshman team. He started all three games for the team that season (all wins). His roommate that season was a little-known backup quarterback from a little-known town of Dozier, Ala. — Mal Moore.

If you live in this state and are above the age of 5, you’re familiar with Mal Moore. He was a part of 10 national championship teams at Alabama as a player, coach and athletic director. He served as AD from 1999 until his death in 2013. Among his many achievements as the Tide’s AD, he is probably most revered for luring Nick Saban away from the Miami Dolphins to become Alabama’s head coach in 2007.

But back in 1958 before his star rose to stratospheric heights, Mal Moore was just another college kid. And on those rare weekends they weren’t busy with football, Moore and Bell would hitchhike to Anniston together and stay with Bell’s parents for the weekend.

While Bell made his mark as a member of the freshman team, his brightest moments in a Crimson jersey came during his sophomore season in 1959 when he caught a touchdown pass from Pat Trammell in the waning moments of the fourth quarter to force a 7-7 tie versus heavily favored archrival Tennessee. A couple weeks later Bell was credited with scoring the lone touchdown in Alabama’s 10-0 homecoming win over Mississippi State.

Injuries and marriage changed the course of Bell’s playing career just as it was beginning to take off. But what a career he had. And what a life he lived.

“The Bell boys had golden lives,” says Lelton. “We’re looking forward to a big weekend.”

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