TERRE HAUTE —
I sat in the Memorial Stadium press box … stone-faced.
Indiana State running back Shakir Bell had 133 rushing yards against Drake … at halftime. Productive to be sure, but a surprise? No.
There goes Bell again … a 60-yard touchdown run to put ISU in front to stay just after halftime. And then another 48-yard sprint to paydirt two minutes later. A nifty 108 yards and 12 points for the Sycamores on just two carries in the time it takes to microwave popcorn.
That’s cool. But ooh’s and aah’s or Hosannah’s to the highest? I’ve seen it before.
Bell broke the ISU single-game rushing record? Heard that before too. He did it a year ago against Youngstown State. Bell broke the Missouri Valley Football Conference record? That’s a new one, but I figured he’d bring it down someday.
He rushed for 349 yards? A big number, but it was only a matter of time before the 300-yard summit was reached. When’s 400 going down?
As I walked down the stadium steps to the post-game media scrum — still in a seen-it-all-before haze — I had an out-of-body experience.
The part of me who knew how mind-blowing Bell’s performance was emerged and slapped the jaded me right across the face.
Don’t be like me. Bell’s transcendence isn’t something anyone should grow accustomed to. Allow yourself to be gobsmacked. Bell’s tour de force running is the stuff of tales you’ll tell your grandchildren someday.
But it’s hard not to get used to it. When Bell’s defensive teammates were asked what it’s like to watch Bell do his thing from the sideline, they admitted much the same.
“I basically expect him to go out there and do what he’s doing. He’s awesome, but we expect it out of them,” ISU safety Larry King said.
ISU coach Trent Miles, not noted for running out of things to say, has emptied his adjectives.
“There’s not much more you can say to describe him. He’s special,” Miles said.
So given that those of us who are closest to it — the coaches, players and media — have perhaps become a bit too comfortable with Bell’s exploits, it’s time to double down on the perspective. It’s time to go there.
Shakir Bell’s impact on the Sycamores is Larry Bird-like.
Whoa. You don’t just throw Larry Bird’s name out there as an adjective lightly. Larry Bird is ISU’s most famous athlete. There is quite literally a statue being worked on at this very moment to memorialize Bird’s ISU feats.
Heretical though it may seem, it’s also hard to argue. Forget for a moment about the myriad and mystical ways in which Bell and Bird influenced/influence the Sycamores and made/make their teammates better, which were/are considerable. One need only look at the numbers.
On the all-time ISU single game scoring list for basketball, Bird owns seven of the top 10 performances, including the top two, capped by a record 49 points scored against Wichita State in 1979.
On the all-time ISU single game rushing list, Bell has four of the top 10 rushing performances, including the top two, capped by the record 349 yards he amassed Saturday.
Bell has seven of ISU’s 19 rushing all-time performances of 190 yards or more. No rusher in ISU’s history can touch that.
And what’s more? Bell still has at least eight games to go in 2012 and the 2013 season too — if the NFL doesn’t come calling. When all is said and done, and if Bell remains healthy, it’s hard to fathom just how much Bell will dominate ISU’s football record book.
“He’s a once-in-an-era special kind of guy,” Miles said.
Bird-like. And really … is there a better compliment that can be paid than that?
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.