It was a tribute you don’t see very often in a high school yearbook -- a personal salute to a fellow student by the yearbook’s sports staff.
But this was the 1977 Middletown, Ohio, High School “Optimist” yearbook. And the recipient was senior Todd Bell.
In time the sporting world would come to know the outstanding student-athlete who was the recipient of the yearbook staff’s praise :
“The OPTIMIST sports staff and the entire body of Middletown High School pay tribute to Todd Bell for the excitement and recognition that he has brought to MHS and wish him ‘Good Luck!” (1)
Todd Bell really didn’t need the luck. He already possessed the talent and the drive to become a “two-time All-American...the first student in MHS history to be named a high school All-American in two sports, track and football…” (1)
“His long jump of 25’5” in 1976 not only set a new state record but also was the longest jump of the year by a high school student,” the yearbook continued. “Todd won the state title for the second straight year in the long jump and is expected to repeat as champion again in 1977.” (1)
“In football Todd was named by PARADE magazine as the top high school player in the country at his position,” the yearbook entry recounted. “The subject of intense recruiting by the major colleges, Todd will attend Ohio State University, where he hopes to play football, run track, and prepare for the 1980 Olympics…” (1)
The Optimist article also recognized Bell for his many non-athletic achievements such as his participation in Student Council. He is “respected by his teachers and peers,” the yearbook staff wrote. (1)
As the years passed Todd Bell lived up to his reputation as an exceptional student, athlete and humanitarian. Today residents of Bell’s hometown, Middletown, Ohio, remember the many highlights from his illustrious biography:
*His becoming a “a three-time state champion in the long jump, breaking the records set by Jesse Owens.” (2)
*His “game-winning touchdown” in the intense Ohio State Buckeyes-University of Michigan Wolverines rivalry football game in November 1979. After a blocked punt Bell grabbed the ball and ran 18 yards for a final score of 18-15. The run sent the Buckeyes to the 1980 Rose Bowl game. Unfortunately for the Bucks, the University of Southern California Trojans emerged as Rose Bowl victors, 17-16. (3)
*His playing on the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles football teams. (3)
*His earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Ohio State during football off-season in 1989. (2)
*His return to Ohio State as an alumnus, serving as Coordinator of Community Relations in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (formerly the Office of Minority Affairs). Bell was an “ambassador for the university and a mentor to many African-American male undergraduates.” He also “gave initial leadership” to the development of the Black Male Initiative and was part of the team that developed the African American Male Resource Center, now known as the Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male. (2)
*His work with youth and his church. (2)
Todd Bell was the son of Elder Archellus Bell and Mrs. Monaray Bell of Middletown. (4) He died at the age of 46 on March 16, 2005, after suffering a fatal heart attack while driving in Reynoldsburg, Ohio (3).
On November 28, 2018 (3), he would have been 60 years old.
(2)“Todd Anthony Bell,” from the Bell National Resource Center on the African American male (named after Todd Bell) at Ohio State University.
(3) Wikipedia -- “Todd Bell,” “The 1980 Rose Bowl.