Todd A Bell

Todd A Bell

Stories about Todd A Bell

Hard-hitting ex-Bear Bell dies of heart attack at 47

    Todd Bell did not suit up with the 1985 Bears, but those who 
    did still consider him a part of the team.

    Those former teammates were saddened Wednesday by news that 
    Bell, 47, died after suffering a heart attack and crashing 
    his car into a house in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, according to 
    police and Ohio State University officials. One of the most 
    feared safeties of his era, Bell played for the Bears from 
    1981 to '84 and again in '86 before spending two seasons 
    with the Philadelphia Eagles and retiring.

    A day before Bell's death, former teammate Shaun Gayle said 
    he and his teammates from '85, who have formed a corporation 
    to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their Super Bowl title, 
    didn't want to wait for a tragedy to bring them together. 
    Bell's phone number was on Gayle's desk, and he had been 
    meaning to call him.

    "Todd was still part of us,'' Gayle said. "It's one of those 
    things that unless you have actually been on a team and 
    created that bond that happens on the field, it's hard to 
    explain. To lose a guy is really difficult; it's like losing 
    a family member. Todd inspired a lot of people.''

    Gayle counts himself as one of the inspired. He knew Bell 
    since he was in high school. Gayle's older brother played at 
    Ohio State, and when he would visit on weekends, Woody Hayes 
    encouraged him to sit in on meetings. There, he met Bell in 
    the defensive backs room. When Gayle was a freshman with the 
    Buckeyes, Bell was a senior.

    "That was my introduction into seeing how a strong safety 
    plays the game,'' said Gayle, who stood up in Bell's wedding 
    alongside Walter Payton and Mike Singletary. "I had no idea. 
    I had never seen a strong safety hit linemen or tackle 
    people that way. It was something to see.''

    One of the most memorable hits in Bears history occurred in 
    a 1984 playoff game with the Washington Redskins when Bell 
    obliterated running back Joe Washington, forcing a fumble. 
    The Bears' defense topped the charts that season, and 
    coordinator Buddy Ryan called Bell, who went to the Pro 
    Bowl, the key.

    A contract dispute prevented Bell from playing in '85. He 
    wanted $500,000 and the Bears offered $400,000, so he sat 
    out the entire season. Bell requested a trade just before 
    the deadline, but it was not granted. Meanwhile, Dave 
    Duerson replaced Bell and also went to the Pro Bowl.

    When Bell returned in '86, he wasn't the same. He was nagged 
    by a hamstring injury and fell out of favor with the 
    coaching staff. He finished up with the Eagles, where Ryan 
    was coaching, eventually moving to weak-side linebacker.

    "I can't really look back and have regrets,'' Bell said 
    after returning to the Bears. "I'm just sorry I wasn't part 
    of that Super Bowl XX.''

    Gayle believes Bell when he looks back on what happened: 
    "That's not how Todd operates. He's not going to look back. 
    He's a man of principle, and when he makes a decision, he 
    goes with it.''

    After retiring, Bell returned to Ohio State, where he worked 
    in the Office of Minority Affairs.

    "It's absolutely stunning,'' former teammate Leslie Frazier 
    said. "I'm still shaken by the news. His sense of humor will 
    probably be the lasting memory I have. He was a ferocious 
    player and an intimidating tackler, but off the field we had 
    so many laughs and good times.''

    Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera was at Halas Hall 
    when he saw the news scroll across the TV.

    "I was shocked,'' said Rivera, who last visited with Bell 
    last year while scouting at Ohio State. "Todd was a man of 
    principle and character. This is unbelievable.''

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