TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State running back Shakir Bell isn’t getting much sleep these days.
It has nothing to do with the shoulder injury he suffered at Indiana University on Aug. 29, nor does it have anything to do with any trepidation about his return to action for the Sycamores when they travel to Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
It’s for the best of reasons — Bell is a father.
His daughter, Aniyah Renee Michelle Bell, was born last Thursday. So not only is Bell enthused about his comeback, he’s got a special someone to keep him focused on his goals.
“There’s no other feeling than to see a child born. It’s amazing. There’s nothing like holding her. It gives me motivation, another thing to push for, something to go out and fight for. I can be nothing but happy about it,” Bell said.
Aniyah was born on ISU’s bye week, a little favor to Bell from the football gods?
“She was originally due this week, but I knew before she was born, I knew she’d be born on the bye week. I just knew it would happen. I knew she’d show me some love,” Bell said.
As for his return, there are no restrictions on Bell. Tuesday was the first practice he participated in where he wasn’t wearing a protective jersey indicating that he couldn’t be hit. In fact, ISU coach Mike Sanford wanted to see Bell get a few knocks to get him ready for the real thing Saturday.
“He’s fully back and ready to roll,” Sanford said. “We’ve had him in a yellow jersey, but no more yellow jersey today. We wanted to get him hit a little bit to get him ready.”
Bell is thrilled to be back. The Purdue and Quincy games were the first he’s missed in his college career.
“It was one of the hardest things I had to do. I’ve never missed a game. These last couple of weeks were rough on me,” Bell said.
While the news about Bell is good, ISU will have to deal with the absence of one of its other key senior starters.
Cornerback Calvin Burnett, who injured his knee in ISU’s 70-7 win over Quincy on Sept. 14, will miss Saturday’s game with what Sanford termed a “serious” injury.
“It’s been hard on [Calvin] and its been hard on us, but you have to rise above it. He’s a soldier that’s gone down. We have to pick up his weapon and fight for him,” Sanford said.
When asked, Sanford would not say that Burnett’s injury was of the season-ending variety.
Aside from Burnett, an all-MVFC selection, cornerback was not considered a position of strength for the Sycamores. First-year starter Alex Stowers has received positive reviews from Sanford, but replacing Burnett will be difficult.
“Right now we’re looking at variety of guys. Tony Newman, Travis Starks and Clay Guess have been involved and Dejuan Lang is a guy who will be right in the thick of it. Othniel Harvey is coming back, he had hernia surgery. We’ll see how it works out when we get closer,” Sanford said.
ISU could get a boost for its secondary as safeties Donovan Layne and Mark Sewall could return. Both practiced in pads Tuesday, though both were limited, and they’re a game-time decision as to whether they play.
The Sycamores return to game-prep this week as they ramp up their efforts for their first-ever meeting against Tennessee Tech, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference. The Golden Eagles (2-2) fell 41-21 at home to a good Tennessee State team last Saturday.
“I really didn’t feel our players were into game-week mode until today,” Sanford said. “Our practice and concentration was good. We have to beat Tennessee Tech. We have to win on the road and we have to beat a FCS opponent. We’ve played two FBS teams and a Division II team. Now it’s time to beat a FCS team.”