ROCKFORD – Leonard Bell, who got his athletic start playing on Ken-Rock Community Center’s youth football teams, will be inducted into the RPS Hall of Fame in February.
The Rockford School District announced its 2017 Class this week. Along with Bell, it includes Auburn state champion diver Carrie Zarse, former Chicago Cubs major league pitcher and Rockford High School graduate Hal Carlson, the 1992-1993 Guilford basketball team, former Guilford golf coach Roger Lindemann and administrator Diane Peterson.
Rockford Public Schools established a Hall of Fame in 2013 to honor its most outstanding athletes, coaches and contributors. Zarse will be the first Auburn athlete inducted and Bell will be the first athlete from Jefferson.
Ken-Rock Community Center Executive Director John Guth played on some of the same teams with Bell growing up and was excited to here he’s finally getting his due from the school district.
“Leonard has been a great ambassador for the Ken-Rock Community Center throughout the past 45 years. I know the center has always been close to his heart along with his four brothers. He was first in line when asked to give a testimonial of his experiences here growing up,” Guth said.
“His career at Ken-Rock football, Rockford Jefferson, Indiana University and the Cincinnati Bengals has been an inspiration for all those that have known him. On behalf of the Ken-Rock Center, where Leonard got his start in sports, we congratulate him on his induction into the RPS Hall of Fame. We are proud of not only the athlete Leonard was back in the 1970s and 1980s, but the man he is today.”
Bell was both a wrestling and football star at Jefferson. In wrestling, he won two conference championships at 167 pounds and twice qualified for the state tournament, taking fifth in his weight class in the 1980-1981 season.
In football, Bell was a two-time all-conference running back (1980 and 1981), finishing fourth and seventh in rushing yards those two years. He also was an outstanding defensive back and that’s the position he excelled at at Indiana University. He was a four-year starter from 1983 to 1986, intercepting nine passes and making 296 tackles.
Bell is fourth all-time in tackles among NIC-10 players who played high Division 1 college football and third in interceptions.
The Cincinnati Bengals were impressed enough to make him a third round-draft pick. Only Carlos Polk of Guilford has ever been drafted higher among NIC-10 players.
Unfortunately, Bell’s NFL career was cut short. He suffered a foot injury his first year and played in only one game. Bell now lives in Houston.
The Champions Ball and Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will be held Feb. 25 at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center, 200 S. Bell School Road, Rockford. Tickets cost $50 per person.