Football

Bell only area standout taken in NFL draft

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During the Groveport Madison High School football team's opener last August against Westerville South, 2010 graduate Le'Veon Bell stopped by to give a few words of encouragement.

It proved to be one of the more memorable moments of the fall for the Cruisers, according to former coach Tim Brown.

"He came out for our first game and talked to the team," Brown said. "I think that meant a lot to the team. I think it showed a lot about who he is."

On the field, Bell developed into a pro prospect after he left Groveport to play for Michigan State.

On April 26 during the second round of the NFL draft, he was selected by Pittsburgh with the 48th overall pick.

After five players from central Ohio were selected during the seven-round draft last year, Bell was the only player originally from the area to be selected this year.

The Steelers, who went 8-8 and missed the playoffs last season, are looking at Bell as a "three-down back," offensive coordinator Todd Haley said on the team's website.

Jonathan Dwyer led Pittsburgh with just 623 yards rushing last season and was one of three players to run for a team-best two touchdowns.

The 6-foot-1 Bell plans to play at about 230 or 235 pounds.

"I'm so excited to get there and get ready to get to work," Bell said on Steelers.com. "This is the happiest day of my life. No words can describe it.

"The craziest thing is ... I did not know where I would end up. There were a lot of teams that were talking to me. My mom always said that the Steelers are going to draft me and it's crazy that it actually happened."

Bell rushed for 1,333 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior in 2009 as Groveport went 6-4 and missed the playoffs by one spot.

As a sophomore in 2007, he completed a 35-yard halfback pass during a 41-27 win over Brookhaven in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.

It remains the only playoff win in program history.

In college, Bell's 33 touchdowns rank him sixth on the all-time Michigan State list.

"Le'Veon always had tremendous ability," said Brown, who recently became the athletics director at his alma mater, Cameron (W.Va.), after leading the Groveport program for 11 years. "To watch him grow up from being a young man and go to college and play is outstanding. He graduated young. He was only 17 and he kind of grew into himself. (Michigan State) coach (Mark) Dantonio has kept a pretty tight ship running and I knew he had the talent. Being pushed like that brought it out of him."

According to NFL.com as of April 28, Dublin Coffman's Jake Stoneburner (TE, Ohio State) had signed with Green Bay and DeSales' Patrick Omameh (OL, Michigan) had signed with San Francisco.

Other area players who reportedly signed free agent contracts last weekend included Pickerington Central's Zach Boren (LB, Ohio State) with Houston and Dublin Scioto's Bradley McDougald (DB, Kansas) with Kansas City.

McDougald said he believes he has a "great opportunity" to make the Chiefs' roster.

"(I'm) most definitely thankful for my opportunity with the Kansas City Chiefs. Being in Kansas the last four years will only make the transition that much smoother," he said. "I just want to get there and simply prove my worth, and constantly show up on tape positively making plays."

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