|Born:||June 15, 1965|
Live Oak, Florida
|Height:||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Weight:||207 lb (94 kg)|
|High school:||Lafayette County (FL)|
|NFL Draft:||1988 / Round: 7 / Pick: 180|
|* Offseason and/or practice squad member only|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career CFL statistics|
Kerwin Douglas Bell (born June 15, 1965) is an American football coach and former player who is currently the offensive coordinator for the South Florida Bulls football team. Bell was born in the North Central Florida town of Live Oak and was a star high school football quarterback at Lafayette County High School in nearby Mayo, Florida. Bell did not attract the attention of top college football programs while playing at the small high school, so he decided to attend the University of Florida in nearby Gainesville and join the Florida Gators football team as a walk-on.
After being redshirted during his first season at the school, Bell became the Gators' starting quarterback in 1984 and remained the starter for four years, he was the Southeastern Conference (SEC) player of the year in 1984 and was named to several All-SEC and All-American lists before graduating in 1987.
After college, played professionally in the National Football League (NFL), World League of American Football (WLAF) and the Canadian Football League (CFL) for fourteen seasons in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s. Though he started dozens of games in the WLAF and the CFL, he never started an NFL contest and threw only five regular season passes in his NFL career. However, he completed all five of those passes for 75 yards and a touchdown, leaving him with the highest career passer rating in league history, albeit in a very small sample size.
After retiring as a player, Bell returned to Florida and served as the head football coach at Trinity High School in Ocala from 2001 to 2006, winning a state championship in 2005, he became the head coach at NCAA Division II (D-II) Jacksonville University in 2007 and led the Dolphins to their first three conference championships during his nine seasons at the school. Bell moved to Valdosta State University in 2016, and in 2018, he led the Blazers to their first undefeated season and the 2018 NCAA D-II national championship on the strength of the highest scoring offense in college football.
Bell was born in Live Oak, Florida in North Central Florida to Doyle and Zelda Bell and grew up in nearby Mayo, Florida, population 800. His parents were tobacco farmers, and Kerwin helped with various farming tasks throughout his youth. Bell attended Lafayette County High School, where he was the president of the student council and a multi-sport athlete, playing shortstop on the baseball team, leading the basketball team in scoring as a starting guard, and starting at quarterback on the football team. In 1981, he led the Lafayette Hornets to their only state football championship, earning the nickname "The Throwin' Mayoan."
Despite his prep success, Bell was lightly recruited during his senior year with no athletic scholarship offers from major football programs, as his rural high school had competed in the lowest division of Florida high school football and coaches were unsure if he could succeed against top collegiate talent. Instead of attending a smaller college, Bell decided to walk-on at the University of Florida in nearby Gainesville and join the Florida Gators football team without an athletic scholarship. He was eighth on the Gators' quarterback depth chart during his freshman season of 1983 under head coach Galen Hall and was redshirted without playing in a game.
Bell was the Gators' backup quarterback coming into the Gators' 1984 season due to his consistent performance on the practice field and the fact that several quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart had graduated, transferred, or were injured. When senior starter Dale Dorminey suffered a serious knee injury four days before the Gators' first game, Bell was suddenly thrust into the starting role, the Gators opened the 1984 season against the defending national champion Miami Hurricanes in Tampa Stadium in one of the first college football games to be nationally televised by ESPN. In his first collegiate start, Bell threw a touchdown pass with under a minute remaining to give the Gators the lead, only to have Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar lead the Hurricanes to a winning score with seven seconds remaining.
The Gators would not lose another game during Bell's redshirt freshman season. Behind an outstanding offensive line, memorably dubbed "The Great Wall of Florida," and which included Phil Bromley, Lomas Brown, Billy Hinson, Crawford Ker and Jeff Zimmerman, and supported by fullback John L. Williams, halfback Neal Anderson and wide receiver Ricky Nattiel, Bell led the Gators to a 9–1–1 record, an SEC championship, and a top-5 national ranking.
However, due to NCAA infractions committed under coach Charley Pell, the Gators' were ineligible for bowl consideration, and their SEC championship was vacated months after the 1984 season ended. In 1985, now with a full scholarship, Bell led the Gators to a second consecutive 9–1–1 record. Though ineligible for the conference championship, the Gators finished with best-in-the-conference records of 5–0–1 and 5–1 in 1984 and 1985 and briefly held their first ever No. 1 ranking in the AP poll during the 1985 season.
Due to the effects of ongoing NCAA penalties, the Gators' record slipped to 6–5 in 1986 and 6–6 in 1987, Bell's junior and senior seasons. A highlight of those campaigns was Florida's upset of the No. 5 and undefeated Auburn Tigers in November 1986. Bell had injured his knee a month prior and did not start the game. But with the Gators trailing 17–0 in the fourth quarter, he entered the contest wearing a large knee brace and led his team to a dramatic 18–17 comeback win, capped with a last-minute touchdown pass to Ricky Nattiel followed by Bell himself "hobbling" into the endzone for a successful two-point conversion.
Bell was the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Player of the Year in 1984, an honorable mention All-American in 1985 and 1986, a first-team All-SEC selection in 1985, and the recipient of the Gators' Fergie Ferguson Award and a team captain in 1987. He finished his four-year college career with 549 completions on 949 passing attempts, for 7,585 yards and fifty-six touchdowns.
Bell graduated from Florida with a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1987, and was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Gator Great" in 1997. Among the top 100 Gators of the first 100 years of Florida football, the sportswriters of The Gainesville Sun ranked him the No. 26 greatest Gator of all time in 2006.
Bell had a well-traveled football career. He was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round (180th pick overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft, and spent the season on the Dolphins' practice squad. He spent part of 1989 as the Buccaneers' third-team quarterback, but a serious knee injury ended his season and prevented him from playing at all in 1990; in 1991, Bell finally got a chance to start with the Orlando Thunder of the World League of American Football and threw for 2,214 yards, and was the Thunder's backup quarterback in 1992 when the team went to the World Bowl.
Bell began a seven-year Canadian Football League career in 1993, with the Sacramento Gold Miners, part of the failed CFL expansion into the United States. As a back-up quarterback in 1993, Bell threw for 296 yards, but his passing production increased to 1,812 yards in 1994. Bell played for the Edmonton Eskimos in 1995.
In 1996, Bell landed a roster spot with the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL, and in week 15 he entered the game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Bell attempted five passes and completed all of them, throwing for 75 yards and a touchdown on the day. He never again threw a pass in a regular season NFL game, leaving him with the highest career passer rating of any quarterback in NFL history. He was the Colts' third team quarterback in 1997 but did not play in a regular season game.
Bell returned the CFL in 1998 with the Toronto Argonauts and had his best professional year, throwing for 4,991 yards and completing 67.3 percent of his passes. He threw for 501 yards against Edmonton on September 26, 1998. Bell played in 1999 and 2000 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, but would return to the Argonauts for part of the 2000 and the 2001 seasons. Bell passed for 8,811 career yards in forty-six regular season games in Toronto.
During his nine-season CFL career, Bell played in 126 regular season games, completed 1,560 passes in 2,558 attempts, and threw 101 touchdowns.
Bell first coached in 1990, when his playing career was temporarily interrupted by a serious knee injury. While recovering, Bell returned to the University of Florida and served as a graduate assistant coach under Steve Spurrier, who was in his first season as the Gators' head ball coach. Bell's first foray into coaching was brief, he was ready to return to the field in the summer of 1991 and signed with the Orlando Thunder of the WLAF after one season coaching at UF.
Bell next held a coaching position in 2001, when he served as the offensive coordinator for the Toronto Argonauts during his last season as an active player, after retiring as a player, Bell returned to his home state and became the head football coach at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala, Florida. Under Bell, Trinity Catholic won the 2005 Florida 2A state high school football championship and was state runner-up in 2006.
In 2007, Bell became the head coach of the Jacksonville University football program; in the program's second season, the JU Dolphins went 9–4 and won the Pioneer Football League (PFL) championship. Bell was recognized as the PFL Coach of the Year and was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award. Bell's squad again won the PFL championship in 2010 with a 10–1 record.
During his time at Jacksonville, Bell was rumored to be a candidate for coaching positions at major college programs and interviewed to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Florida in 2011; in addressing this rumors, Bell stated that he intended to build a "strong legacy" as Jacksonville University's head coach and would only leave for "the right situation".
Despite compiling a 66–35 record and winning three PFL championships at a school that had only posted one winning season before his arrival, Bell's contract was not renewed after the 2015 season due to "philosophical differences". While the school's administration wanted to keep the football program as-is, Bell had publicly stated his goal of eventually growing the non-scholarship Jacksonville program into a scholarship-based program which could better compete with other scholarship-supported programs in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
In 2018, Bell led the Blazers to the program's first undefeated season (14-0) and the Division II National Championship, the Blazers led D-II in scoring with 52 points per game and scored the most points in Gulf South Conference history.
In January 2019, Bell was named the offensive coordinator for the South Florida Bulls by head coach Charlie Strong, who knew Bell from several stints as an assistant coach at the University of Florida.
Kerwin Bell married the former Cosette Odom in 1986, while they were both students at the University of Florida, the two had first met in kindergarten in their hometown of Mayo, and at the time of their marriage, Cosette was Florida's majorette captain while Kerwin was the Gators' star quarterback. Their son, Kade Bell, joined his father's coaching staff at Valdosta State and was the primary playcaller during their national championship season in 2018. Kade also joined his father's staff at USF.
Head coaching record
|Jacksonville Dolphins (Pioneer Football League) (2007–2015)|
|2008||Jacksonville||9–4||7–1||1st||L Gridiron Classic|
|Jacksonville:||66–35||52–19||*Official record was 0–0 due to rules violations|
|Valdosta State Blazers (Gulf South Conference) (2016–present)|
|2016||Valdosta State||8–3||6–2||T–2nd||L NCAA Division II First Round||18|
|2018||Valdosta State||14–0||8–0||1st||W NCAA Division II Championship||1|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title or championship game berth|
- Jacksonville Dolphins
- List of Florida Gators football players in the NFL
- List of SEC Most Valuable Players
- List of University of Florida alumni
- List of University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame members
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- Cavadi, Wayne (20 December 2018). "DII football championship: Records fall as Valdosta State wins fourth title in 49-47 thriller over Ferris State". NCAA.com. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
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- "Cobb, Bradley, "The Perfect Colts Quarterback"". coltscamp.com.
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- "Valdosta State football team wins Division II national championship". ajc.com. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. AP. 16 December 2018. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
- "Blazers Finish No. 1 in AFCA Coaches Poll Following Fourth Title; Cap First Undefeated Season". Valdosta State University Athletics. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- "Football Program Compliance Update". Jacksonville University. November 14, 2014. Archived from the original on November 19, 2014. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
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