William Bell has his name in the Reeltown history books. He was an all-state running back for the Rebels in 1984 and helped lead the team to a region title and its first appearance in a state championship game.
Just over three decades later, his son, LD Bell, started to get to work with the next generation of players to keep the Rebels’ tradition alive. Bell got his first ever coaching gig with the Reeltown youth football league but it did not take long for him to start making a more widespread impact on the community and even outside of the family line.
Bell, who actually graduated from Tallassee, is now an assistant coach at the varsity level for the Tigers’ basketball team while being the head coach of the junior varsity boys basketball team and an assistant on the junior varsity football team. Despite the new gigs, Bell said he still sees the harsh side of the rivalry.
“Of all the games I coached and all the success we had at Tallassee, my dad did not come to one game,” LD Bell said with a laugh. “He didn’t mean it no harm by it but he’s just letting me know he’s a Reeltown Rebel at the end of the day. I decided to stick with Tallassee though. I get some negative comments about not following in my dad’s footsteps but I’m getting the best of both worlds.”
Tallassee boys basketball coach Keiven Mixson did not know LD Bell’s history when they first met but Mixson was not going to waste much time after meeting Bell to bring him aboard to help out with the program.
“The first year I was here, I didn’t really know anybody but this guy kept appearing,” Mixson said. “When you see good people work as hard as he did, we wanted to get him involved. Surround yourself with good people, that’s what you always hear, right? And he’s been a huge asset. If it wasn’t for LD Bell helping our program, we would not have had the success we’ve had.”
Bell also continued to help athletes around the area even outside the confines of Tallassee High.
In 2016, Bell created Star Seeds, an organization to help kids stay on top of academics and out of trouble while getting to focus on their athletics. He just saw his first group of kids graduate from high school and after four years, he has seen his program grow to heights he never dreamed of.
“No way (I thought this would happen),” Bell said. “I can’t take credit for any of that though. I may be the face of it but I have a group that really helps me. And all of the credit for it is to God. The next reason it blew up was because the kids went back to school and talk about it. Now when I go to the game, I get stopped by a kid saying they want to be a part of it.”
While Star Seeds has athletes from all over the region, Tallassee was represented by Jalyn Daniels, Jamicah Humphery and Tavarious Griffin. Bell’s relationship with those players helped the team as a whole but that was not the only thing he was bringing to the table.
“He’s got a servant’s heart and honestly, he’s helped motivate me,” Mixson said. “He’s out there outworking all of us and that’s just LD. Iron sharpens iron. I didn’t know it would be like that but he pushes me to be a better coach. He gets you to thinking in that direction. If someone can help me be a better coach, I want them on my team.”
While Bell is on staff with Tallassee, he continues to make an impact on both sides of the river.
Reeltown football coach Matt Johnson said he has known Bell’s father for years and called him a legend for the Rebels on the football field. While they may not be on the same staff, Johnson said he and his program have already felt the impact from the work Bell does with the community.
“I did a lot of listening to his ideas and he wanted to get his program to help the kids in the community,” Johnson said. “He’s just a mentor for these young people. He has grown up in the same area as us and he’s volunteering all his time to give these kids a better opportunity and that’s invaluable.
“This is a guy who is right here in the middle of our community and that’s his real life. It’s not a sales pitch. They see how he lives and they see his positivity. That’s just who he is.”
Johnson and Bell have teamed up over the past two years to put on youth football camps at Reeltown and it has attracted kids from both Reeltown and Tallassee and even reached as far as Coosa County, Dadeville, Eclectic and beyond.
“I’m just a kid that got a vision,” Bell said. “I saw four kids playing in the yard and I formed a relationship with them. Now, I’m coaching at high school levels and throwing together camps for kids from all over. When I have men like that respect me and my opinion, that means a lot. This is just a brotherhood all around the board. This isn’t just a Tallassee thing.”
Bell said Star Seeds now has near 150 kids from first through 12th grade involved and active in the program.
“He’s reaching kids from all over,” Johnson said. “He made it a focus to get that out there and sell the brand to build these kids into better citizens. He’s full of positive energy.”
As for the rivalry, the two football teams are set to meet Aug. 20 for the first time in 17 years. It may become more difficult for those 48 minutes on the field and while Johnson said he will be thrilled to hold some bragging rights, he won’t be too hard on Bell.
“I try not to hold that against him,” Johnson said. “You can still love through the colors. That’s the kind of stuff that creates a bond between us and a bond between our young people. There’s a massive competitive spirit whether we’re playing or not but it’s the love that’s there after the last whistle that makes it special.”