Breakout Performer: Homegrown Lions RB Joique Bell Is Ready to Terrorize Goal Lines
Despite being a 27-year old running back, Joique Bell still has plenty of tread left on his tires. Hailing from Michigan, the Lions back took the long road through the NFL, spending time on four teams (Bills, Eagles, Colts, Eagles again, Saints) after going undrafted out of Division II Wayne State University in 2010. In the 2012 he landed in Detroit and logged time in all 16 games, averaging 5.0 yards per carry on 82 totes and tallying 485 receiving yards on 52 catches. The performance was good enough for the team to re-sign the back for 2013.
Then this past Sunday happened. More specifically, the 5' 11", 220-pounder's two touchdowns and five catches for 67 yards happened. Not a bad start to the season, considering he had notched just three career TDs prior to this year. The outing seems to have locked Bell in as the primary complement to starter Reggie Bush. Now that he's on his way to becoming a household name—at the very least, in fantasy circles—it's high time everyone learned how to say that name.
Here's how to pronounce "Joique".
JK, JK, that's not it. It's pronounced JOYK. JOYK.
"It’s French," Bell said. "I was taught that it means 'Conqueror.'”
After scoring a TD in the third quarter of the against the Vikings, Bell leapt into the stands Lambeau-style—and went one step further by leading fans in a "Hip Hop Hooray" cheer.
Bell is calling the impromptu celebration a new tradition. "But it was just something I thought of then, being silly," he said. "I wanted to get the crowd into it and it looked like they enjoyed it." He inspired everyone and their daughters. No, really, watch this.
FACT Spike Lee directed the video for Naughty by Nature's 1993 hit single "Hip Hop Hooray."
That was 20 years ago.
"I thought if he saw me running he would run away, but he didn't," Bell said of his effort to deter a streaker who ran onto the field during the Lions' third preseason game in Cleveland.
Alas, the fan was powered by beer muscles and adrenaline. "I pushed him down hoping security would come out there and do their job, but he happened to get all the way across the field," Bell said. "He had on his drawers, and then right when I started running at him he pulled them down.”
“I intentionally aimed high,” said a mindful Bell. “(If I) used the wrap and roll technique, I probably would’ve been the one going to jail."
Call it a special teams contribution.
"It was the best decision I never made," Bell said, referring to his commitment to Wayne State.
“While I’m in my class, my mother calls my cell phone,” Bell recalled about being in high school shortly after signing day. “She asked me why I didn’t go to Wayne State.” Bell told her he hadn't yet made up his mind. She, however, was already convinced, and eventually got him on board. He just had to submit his letter of intent—or so he thought.
“She said ‘you signed it this morning’ and she already had faxed it,” Bell said. Turns out, the letter of intent was the paper she had asked him to sign early that morning when she woke him up.
FACT Bell showed flashes during his NFL carousel ride from 2010 and 2011—when he got opportunities. Check out his hurdle, stiff-arm, and tightrope walk after catching a pass in space during the 2011 preseason (for the Saints).
"Deep down, I'm talking deep down, to the core, I am a Wayne State Warrior."
FACT Bell is active on Twitter and Instagram. Many of his messages are motivational or inspirational. He also offers a good checklist for those of you requiring lists to function.
“Detroit is home. It means a lot more to be playing here," Bell said. "I have family, my fans and my Wayne State family here. To be on the platform that I’m on is really an amazing feeling, and being able to represent myself and my teammates and be a part of something like this. God has really blessed me … I will never take it for granted but I will take advantage of it.”
FACT Bell won the 2009 Harlon Hill Trophy, awarded to the Division II college football player of the year. He racked up 2,392 all purposes yards in 11 games, including 2,084 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns on the ground. This SportsCenter clip summarizes the season nicely:
"Hopefully when I'm done with my career I can get a job working for the FBI."
Bell earned his degree from Wayne State in criminal justice -- the family trade. His father was a police officer, his godfather a state trooper, his uncle worked for the secret service, and his late brother-in-law Paul Sorce was an FBI agent killed in the line of duty in 2009. Bell even had a job after his freshman year of college working security at Ford Field during Lions training camp.
Bell once asked Sorce, "You think I'll ever be as good as A.P.?"
"You know what?" Bell said Sorce responded. "'Nah. Nah.' … He always told me the truth, or told me something to push me, drive me to be better. "
This past Sunday, Bell scored just as many rushing touchdowns as the running back on the opposing sideline -- Adrian Peterson. (Albeit while covering much less ground.)
FACT In addition to lettering in football (and taking over at quarterback his senior year after the starter transferred), Bell also played high school baseball and basketball, ran hurdles for the track team, and filled out the brass section of the marching band.
“I started out playing the baritone horn, then switched to the tuba," Bell said. "We did a lot of band competitions; it was really big at my high school. Our band wasn’t the traditional military style band because we did a lot of modern dance, hip-hop and R&B. When I was growing up, my friends and I would go down to the football games to see the band. Everybody wanted to be in band.”
Bell still hurdles. Ask the Jaguars …
… Or the EA developers who programmed Madden 25.
"I decided to go with the heater."
Bell looked intimidating on the mound at the Tigers' Comerica Park, where he threw out the first pitch this past May. He chose to go with the gas after considering a curveball or knuckler.
"I'd like to throw a shout-out to the big homie Reggie Bush for donating to the Joique Bell touchdown club," Bell told reporters Sunday, within an earshot of Bush.
"Got me down to the 1, all I had to do was punch it in. So we shared that touchdown together. We joked about it, we laugh about it. But at the end of the day, he was a big part of today's win. He's a force to be reckoned with out there on the field."
"Get up on your own, baby. I understand. I'd be mad too."
Bell to a Packers defender who laid on the ground -- and denied Bell's hand -- after taking the rusher down following a five yard gain. That and much more in this 10-minute Wired For Sound piece starring Bell from Week 14 last season at Green Bay.
FACT Bell hosted a free summer football and cheerleading camp this spring in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club of Benton Harber, Michigan, and the National Kidney Foundation. The organizers made this symphonic promotional video: