published Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Ring the Bell Ridgeland star weighing college options

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    Ridgeland's Vonn Bell is one of the paper's Dynamite Dozen football players.
    Photo by Jake Daniels.
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Dynamite Dozen

No. 1 Vonn Bell

Schools recruiting: He's trimmed the huge list of possibilities to Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Tennessee, Texas and Vanderbilt.

Why do you wear the No. 7?

"In the Biblical sense, the No. 7 means completion."

Vonn Bell admits that the first time he talked to a big-time college football coach was a bit indimidating.

Since that day in early January when Georgia coach Mark Richt called to offer a scholarship to Bell, the Ridgeland High School safety prospect -- he's top 20 in the nation in more than one scouting service -- has become so comfortable talking to Nick Saban, Urban Myer et al that he's now the one asking questions.

"Vonn and his family have done a tremendous job throughout this process," Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis said. "As part of the last piece of the puzzle, so to speak, they asked each of the schools remaining on his list three questions."

The questions were simple, but the Bells made it known they don't want promises the schools can't keep. Two of the questions were non-football related. The first was about each school's education program and how it could help Vonn reach his goal of becoming a college coach someday.

The second was about each school's timeline for graduation and what the plan would be if Vonn got off track. The third was about how quickly he could get on the field and what the school's plan was for him as a football player.

"The more I talk to the coaches, the better idea I get of the entire picture," said Bell, who recently returned from an AAU basketball tournament in Las Vegas with his Nashville Celtics teammates. "It's tough because you have to think about everything, like playing time, education and being away from my family. There's a lot to go over."

Despite rumors to the contrary, Bell hasn't made up his mind just yet, though a further trimming of his current list of seven schools -- Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Tennessee, Texas and Vanderbilt -- is, he said, coming soon. Several Internet sites, including Scout.com, lists Ohio State as the favorite, though it's well known that Bell has grown up a Volunteers fan.

"I'm honestly still looking at the process," the Under Armour All-American said. "Anything is possible, and I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the road. Telling the ones that I don't choose will probably be one of the toughest things I do in my life, because this is one of the biggest decisions of my life. It's going to be tough.

However it ends, the past eight months have changed Bell's life forever.

"It's built my confidence being able to talk to big-time coaches like Nick Saban and Urban Meyer, and to be able to build relationships with them is one of the great things about this," Bell said. "Every kid has a dream in this game of football to play college ball and maybe make the NFL. That's definitely a dream of mine."

about Lindsey Young...

Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...

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