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Oklahoma-Notre Dame game extra special for Blake Bell's family

The Bells began planning this trip months ago — renting a house near the Notre Dame campus and two vans for the large group that would travel to witness Blake's first career road start at the preeminent Catholic university.
by Jason Kersey Published: September 27, 2013

Bell was understandably upset and discouraged, but stayed focused and got his opportunity after Knight was inconsistent in the first two games, and then suffered a knee injury.

Bell started Oklahoma's 51-20 win over Tulsa two weeks ago, firmly grabbinging hold of the job with an outstanding performance and ensured his family's big trip wouldn't be at all sullied.

The Bells, though, say the entire group would've made this trip regardless of Blake's place on the depth chart.

“We're an extremely close family so we were going to be there for Blake,” Sherry Bell said, emphatically adding, “No matter what.”

Blake's mom thought back to her first — and, before Saturday, only — trip to Notre Dame. She and her husband Mark attended the Irish's 1999 season opener against Kansas, and left blown away by the university's beauty and grandeur.

Mark and Sherry watched Notre Dame's players exit the Basilica of the Sacred Heart after pregame Mass and solemnly walk to the stadium. The Bells strolled through the Grotto, a solemn, landmark shrine to the Virgin Mary and popular spot on campus for quiet prayer and reflection.

Sherry went home and told her two sons, “One of you is gonna play at Notre Dame.”

Her youngest became a coveted recruit at Wichita's Bishop Carroll High School and eventually received a scholarship offer from Notre Dame.

Blake Bell picked Oklahoma; even so, on Saturday afternoon he'll make good — in a way — on his mother's 14-year old demand.

“Being a lifelong Catholic, to sit in the stands at Notre Dame and watch your son start at quarterback for Oklahoma … what could be better than that?” Mark Bell said. “Watching Blake throw a couple touchdowns, then look up at Touchdown Jesus?”

The proud dad paused, feeling the weight of what he'd just described.

“It gives me chills thinking about it,” he added in a quieter, more reflective tone. “It'll be a day we never forget.”