Michigan receiver Ronnie Bell looking to fulfill NFL dream at Combine

Detroit News

Indianapolis — This wasn’t the timeline former Michigan receiver and two-time captain Ronnie Bell had envisioned. He was supposed to be in this position at the NFL Combine a year ago, not now.

But, in the first game of the 2021 season, Bell had a 76-yard touchdown reception before suffering a season-ending knee injury on a punt return. Suddenly, his football timeline was altered and after returning for the 2022 season, the third year he led the team in receiving, he is now at the combine preparing for his professional football future.

He found a silver lining in having a year-long delay.

“The timeline kind of rolling around the way that it did, it gave me last year when I took that step back, where it really gave me a different perspective, really, on the game and on life,” Bell said Friday during media availability at the NFL Combine. “I feel kind of like it grew me as a person, as a man, to really step into this now and have even more confidence about it.”

Bell was on the sideline for Michigan’s 12-2 resurgence and Big Ten championship in 2021, but he was a fully healthy participant last season as the Wolverines won another Big Ten title, made the College Football Playoff again and finished 13-1.

During his career, Bell made 31 starts for the Wolverines. He led the team in receiving in 2019, ’20 and ’22, when he had 62 catches for 889 yards and four touchdowns. And now the 6-foot, 190-pound Bell is here meeting with and working out for teams.

“You dream about things like this. You dream about this experience,” Bell said. “Every now and then, like every night, you just take a step back and realize really how fortunate you are, how blessed you are to be doing everything that you really worked for and tried to get to. So, for my dream of the NFL being this close, right on the edge of my fingertips, is just like a surreal deal.”

As he trained the last several weeks for the Combine, Bell said the hardest thing has been preparing for the 40-yard dash.

“It’s kind of funny. You think about all the training, and I just went to Florida for six weeks or whatever it was, like I was just learning how to run a straight line,” Bell said laughing. “It’s the craziest thing, but it’s something that you put a lot of work into, put a lot of training into, and I’m excited to go out there and do it.”

He was asked about one attribute that sets him apart in this draft class.

“My versatility and being able to produce all over the field,” Bell said. “I think it’s something that I take a lot of pride in. And it’s something that is a very good attribute of mine.”

Bell also was a leader at Michigan, a captain voted by his teammates. He said that meant everything to him, and now while meeting with NFL teams, they want to see and understand why he was considered a leader. On Thursday, Bell said his father, Aaron, was the biggest influence on him when he was in high school, where he also was a basketball standout.

Aaron Bell, a coach at Missouri Western, in 2007 read a book that had a slogan he has used since with his players and with his sons. He would add it as a hashtag on Twitter, PA + E = GP, when posting about his kids. Ronnie revealed the meaning at the combine, “positive attitude plus effort equals great play.”

That’s what Bell hopes to take with him to the next level.

Schoonmaker credits former UM tight ends

Former Michigan tight end Luke Schoonmaker said he owes a lot to the tight ends who came before him at Michigan, including Zach Gentry, Sean McKeon and Nick Eubanks.

“I think they’ve honestly built me into the player I am today, each in their own ways,” Schoonmaker said Friday. “Zach, Sean, Nick, just great guys that I was able to really be excited to come into that room every day and work with them and then go out onto the field with them and watch them at one point and then sometimes be on the field with them. And then they take off, and I just become them at some point.”

Schoonmaker dealt with shoulder issues late last season, first his left shoulder and then the right in the final game against TCU. Whatever drills he doesn’t do at the combine he said he will do at Michigan’s Pro Day on March 17.

Turner, Smith post big numbers

Former Michigan cornerback D.J. Turner recorded a 4.26 40-yard dash on Friday, tying for the fifth-fastest in NFL Combine history. John Ross in 2017 posted a 4.22, the fastest time in the 40.

His Michigan teammate Mazi Smith, a defensive tackle, had 34 on the bench press on Friday. That total was tops among defensive linemen. Last week during a conference call, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said he projects Turner and Smith as second-round selections.


Twitter: @chengelis

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