WICHITA, Kan. — Most of Blake Bell's fame rests on his amazing efficiency running the Belldozer. Rushing for 24 touchdowns as a backup quarterback will have that effect.
But the good folks here in Sedgwick County, 50 miles north of the Oklahoma state line, know that there's more to their favorite son than goal-line offense.
“A lot of people saw Blake play in high school; we know he can pass,” said Bryce Matteson, a member of the OU Club of Wichita. “A lot of national media thinks he can only run the Belldozer.”
We'll find out soon enough. Bell seems on a collision course with the OU quarterback job, and his hometown is plenty excited about it. That was apparent Wednesday night as the OU club staged a virtual pep rally at the Hyatt Regency.
“We're in lock-step in terms of their enthusiasm,” said club president Mark Chamberlin. “He's been great. He's been patient. I don't think he's in awe of the spotlight.”
Bell and Bob Stoops were among the Sooner participants at the dinner. Stoops didn't divulge any secrets on the quarterback derby, but he also didn't douse the enthusiasm Wichita has for one of its own to quarterback the Sooners.
“Blake has represented in the last couple of years how tough he is,” Stoops told the crowd of about 200. “Great teammate. Has respect in the locker room. Players love him. That goes a long way in being a great quarterback, a successful quarterback.
“He's doing all the things he needs to do to be in a great position to be that guy. I know he'll be prepared to keep working and be that guy late August, early September.”
Only two Kansans have quarterbacked the Sooners. Jake Sills (Garden City) for part of the 1998 season and the great Jack Mitchell (Ark City) from 1946-48. Mitchell was an All-American. Wichita's OU fans have the latter expectations for Bell.
“He's a hometown boy,” said Joe Dermid of Wichita. “I had season tickets to the Shockers (Wichita State baseball), and his folks used to sit right in front of us. So I watched him grow up.
“There's a good amount of excitement.”
Dermid didn't attend OU, but as a boy, his father worked for the railroad, and Dermid would take the train's football special to Norman on game days. Southern Kansas has a ton of OU football fans. Chamberlin said even some of his club's board members aren't alumni.
Charles McNeil of suburban Derby grew up in the Grant County town of Lamont, just west of Tonkawa, and attended Southwestern Oklahoma State. But he's a lifelong Sooner fan and is fired up that Wichita could provide OU with its next quarterback. Bell's father, Mark Bell, is a former Kansas City Chief and a fourth-generation Wichitian.
“His dad's pretty well-known,” McNeil said. “People follow his dad, like his dad. People wish him well.”
Don Klish of Derby shook hands with Bell and said, “I've got to be careful that I don't squeeze his hand too hard.”
Such a setting as the pep rally would seem like a good time to state the obvious and proclaim Bell the 2013 quarterback. But Stoops didn't bite.
“We've never been big on doing it early,” Stoops said. “We believe the team respects who earns it over time. There's more faith in him, a little more consistency. Develops all the guys, the longer the competition is.”
So Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson shouldn't lose faith. But Bell's performance in the spring, in seasons past and Stoops' Wednesday night endorsement of Bell's leadership are enough to convince me. Wichita is going to be very pleased with the 2013 Oklahoma quarterback.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.