Even after selecting two defensive tackles on Day 2 of the NFL draft, Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles could not resist the opportunity to scoop up a third.
There was too much about Travis Bell’s makeup and hustle that drew Poles to the player, so the Bears selected him in the seventh round with the No. 218 pick, adding a developmental player from the FCS level to the position group.
“This is probably one of my favorite human beings,” Poles said of the Kennesaw State product. “He is a special person. I didn’t want him to leave after his 30 visit and he didn’t want to leave either. There’s something different about this guy. He is passionate about the game.”
Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon described a similar affinity for Bell and what he meant to the school’s program. Bohannon spoke to the Tribune about the defensive tackle’s development and prospects for a professional career. Here’s that interview, edited for clarity.
Note: This is part of a series of conversations with the college position coaches of this year’s Bears draft picks.
How did Travis get on your radar?
Travis came out of somewhat the inner-city of Montgomery, Ala. Travis is not necessarily height-wise (6-foot) going to wow you, and he played a lot of different positions in high school and we spend a lot of time over there recruiting. One of his coaches brought him over here one day and we were able to get in on him and felt like Travis would be a good fit for us. You saw a lot of ability, but obviously he’s a lot different leaving here than when he was arriving here.
How did Travis get going once he was in the program?
He was actually redshirted his first year. He was on the offensive field with me the whole time as part of the defensive scout team. And you could see the ability. He just wasn’t ready to play. Put it this way, you got a raw kid who hadn’t been in any structure and hadn’t been in an environment like this, and it took a little bit for him to get used to it. He struggled with it at times and it just took a little while for him to adjust. We felt like he had a chance to be a good player.
What does it say about Travis having a job while he was in school and part of your program?
I don’t think Travis had the job (for a medical supply company) the whole time he was here. It was in the last maybe year or two. Travis already had his degree here. These kids got a COVID year and he was in his sixth year of being here. When I say Travis didn’t come from much, he was probably working to send the majority of his money back home. I never really asked him specifically, but I think he was sending most of his money home. That’s just the kind of kid he was. He was just going to do that for the people he cared about.
At what point did you get an inkling that Travis might be on the NFL’s radar?
All of a sudden things started to click for him and he figured it out. I felt like he had a chance at the next level. I didn’t really know what that meant because beauty is in the eye of the beholder sometimes. You don’t know what the people are seeing. We felt like we had a shot.
His stock rose this past season. The Cincinnati game this season was big for him. That just put him at a place where they get a better idea evaluating him. And then his pro day, he killed it. Everything started adding up to say not only did we feel confident he was going to get picked up, but it got to a point where we felt he was going to be drafted. I don’t think we fully know the impression he made with the Bears. We know who he is, but we didn’t know the details of his visit there. I listened to the whole news conference the Bears had with the GM and the head coach and Travis’ story is awesome. Kid comes from nothing, goes through a lot of trials and tribulations, gets his degree and actually got drafted. You’re hitting every button right now. It’s as good a story as you can have. But I think on top of that, culturally where Travis comes from and the things we do here, it’s a great fit for what the Bears are trying to establish. Listening to them, there’s a lot of similarities in what they’re trying to do in their organization and what we’re trying to do here. It sounds like this is a really good fit. They talk about HITS there and we say EAT — effort, attitude and toughness. Just watching this kid grow and develop and go through some tough times and all the stuff that went with it and to see where he’s at today. Even if he doesn’t make it, it’s a phenomenal story.
Can you quantify what Travis meant to you and your program?
Early on, there were some tough days. There were probably conversations where it had gotten to a point he wasn’t sure he was going to make it and I wasn’t sure he was going to make it. And then to turn the corner and to completely change the trajectory of where he was going that he became a leader on a team, he became the guy everyone would kind of go to and listen to. Travis was not always a vocal guy. Became a vocal guy and that was polar opposite from when he started to where he finished. We did a thing in camp where guys would get up in front of the room and they were asked to name two or three guys on the team they want to go to battle with and trusted. I bet his name came up with every kid on the team. For all the reasons you want too. He’s the most humble, nicest guy on the planet until he gets between the white lines. There is a switch that flips. Different guy. Unbelievable.
Soruce : https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/05/23/get-to-know-travis-bell-qa-with-the-new-chicago-bears-defensive-tackles-college-coach-2/