'Schedule Shock': A Day In The Life Of Justin Bell

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Redshirt sophomore Justin Bell and me in the players' lounge at the Manning Center
Redshirt sophomore Justin Bell and me in the players' lounge at the Manning Center

Nov. 6, 2013

 By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com

OXFORD, Miss. — “He’s my bodyguard,” said Justin Bell, while laughing. “He’ll take everything but a bullet for me.”

That was how Bell, a redshirt sophomore offensive lineman from Jackson, introduced me to his friends, teachers, classmates and teammates, as he gracefully allowed me to follow him around for a day to give me a glimpse of student-athlete life at Ole Miss.

The Thursday before the Rebels’ recent bye weekend started out as me following Bell around from the training room, to class, to tutoring, to the Manning Center, but it soon became hanging out with my new friend Justin.

We met up in the training room at 8:15 a.m., Bell having woken up around 7:30 a.m. and already through his morning routine. He was getting treatment on his lower back with electrical stimulation and heat, and then he proceeded to rice bucket exercises to strengthen his hands.

“A lot of days end in the training room,” Bell said. “Most of my days end in the training room, but this week, it’s my third time in here. It all depends on how your body is feeling that week. After practice, you may have one or two tables free, but the cold tubs and hot tubs will be packed after practice. We use it mostly for recovery and maintenance.”

He didn’t recall any broken bones but just bruises and the gradual wear and tear of offensive linemen who use their hands, like the time he banged his fingers into an opponent’s facemask.

On the way to his 9 a.m. class, he stopped by his locker in the recently renovated locker room, where he ran into sophomore offensive lineman Ben Still and they talked about the previous day’s practice, what they expected from that day’s practice, and so forth.

“It’s all about learning the game and having it slow down for you, and then after that, it’s up to you, whether you want to be great or not,” said Bell, relating back to some of the conversation he had with Still. “It slowed down for me after my true freshman year.

“My redshirt freshman year, I started getting ready about this time last year to be honest. I took the spring and took the time to improve and get better. I used to go in and work with (strength) coach Matt (Shadeed) about hip flexibility and stuff, every Wednesday, which was usually an off day for us. One step at a time.”

Bell, an exercise science major, then started his coursework for the day, with a 9:30 a.m. exercise science class in the Turner Center where the students learned about establishing and maintaining personal, commercial, corporate or clinical-based exercise programs.

After a quick stop at Einstein Bagels in between classes for coffee, we went to his second and final class of the day, an 11:00 a.m. health promotion class in Hume Hall. That class featured an analysis of injuries most common to each sport, safety procedures and practical procedures for administering first aid.

The schedule, and not just class and football, Bell said, was the biggest transition from high school to college.

“You got to think in high school, you went to class, you went to football, and you were done,” he said. “You didn’t have meetings, you didn’t have tutors, and you didn’t have to go watch film. It’s just getting used to the routine and the schedule with everything back-to-back, this and that.

“The first fall, it was shocking to me. As a freshman, you pick your classes, but there are only certain times you can schedule classes, and I was redshirted, so we had redshirt workouts. I wouldn’t say it was culture shock, but it was schedule shock to me. It’s like the norm to me now.”

After the two morning classes, he had some down time before tutoring at 12:50 p.m. in the FedEx Student-Athlete Academic Support Center.

Bell gave me an informal tour of the facility, introducing me to some of his teammates and other student-athletes, while also showing me the various computer facilities, classrooms and other space for study halls and tutoring.

“He knows everybody, and they know him,” administrative assistant Andrea Getzin said. “He’s one of those.”

At a joint tutoring session with junior wide receiver Collins Moore, they talked about the exercise science class from earlier that day, as well as an upcoming paper in the class. Afterwards, they shared funny YouTube videos on their iPads, and then Bell showed me how he watches game film on the ThunderCloud Playbook iPad app.

And then one of the many highlights of the day: the players’ lounge.

Before the team meeting and practice, Bell got in a quick game of NCAA ’14 on the lounge’s 130-inch TV against freshman offensive lineman Daronte Bouldin, while some players played ping-pong, and others were just enjoying some down time.

Bell and Bouldin only played 2-minute quarters, having had to wait for offensive graduate assistant Ben Aigamaua and freshman offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil to finish their game.

When Bell and Bouldin had to end the game to walk down the hall of the Manning Center to the team meeting room, Bell was leading Bouldin by a touchdown.

It was interesting to hear the players use their own language to describe some of the play-calls in the game, as well as the trash-talking and commentary from both the players playing and the ones watching the games.

“In the team meeting, the coaches gave us our itinerary for the bye week weekend and let us know what time we needed to be back and let us know that our decisions affect the team and to make the right decisions this weekend,” Bell said.

After the team meeting, it was the team’s final practice until Sunday, followed by a voluntary bible study in the players’ lounge, which Bell said he and about 30-35 guys attended, and then he and his teammates were off for the day and the rest of the weekend.

“I try to knock out my homework first before I do anything and then try to get some down time to unwind,” Bell said. “I typically have about an hour or two of homework every day. A lot of the downtime is sleep. I also try to catch up on some shows I watch on Netflix and stuff. I got some naptime in because we had a little less time with practice. Not a lot of naptime during game weeks.”

Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller

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