Former Gators great Kerwin Bell reflects on his football career

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Former Florida quarterback Kerwin Bell has made a lot of pitstops during his football career. He’s ventured from walk-on, to starter, professional football player, graduate assistant to a college head coach.

Bell was recently tabbed April 27 as the new football coach for Western Carolina University. He sat down with The Athletic’s G. Allan Taylor to reflect on his career in football so far.

He originally walked on to the Gators 1983 and became the eight-string quarterback. The next year he worked his way up to a backup where he eventually got thrust into a starting role after Dale Dorminey suffered an ACL injury. He led Florida to its first SEC Championship in 1984.

Bell moved on to play several seasons as a professional quarterback in several leagues like the NFL, CFL and the World Football League. He then endured his own ACL injury in a pickup basketball where he developed an interest in coaching after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut him.

Steve Spurrier added Bell to his staff as a graduate assistant in 1990.

“Learning under him was the reason I wanted to become a coach,” Bell said, according to The Athletic. “I went through high school and went through college and never thought one time about being a coach. But seeing the precision of the routes and the spacing that Spurrier taught, that was almost perfection on the field. The way we coach it with quarterbacks and receivers now as far as spacing, timing and rhythm, a lot of that comes from Steve Spurrier.”

Bell worked his way up the ladder as a coach at the high school, FCS, NCAA Division II and FBS football level for one year at USF.

He has also almost joined the coaching staff of his alma mater twice. Former Florida head coach Will Muschamp considered Bell as a replacement for his former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. He was passed over for Brent Pease.

“I was real excited about having the opportunity because Will is a great coach with what he brings to the table defensively,” he said. “He wanted to interview and I think he was recruiting when he flew into Jacksonville to meet me. It was a long interview, probably three hours, and I felt very good about what was presented. We did some board work and talked philosophically about what I wanted to do as an OC, really getting into the playbook and seeing exactly what we do to attack people.”

Current Gators coach Dan Mullen and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham discussed the possibility of hiring Bell as a senior analyst. The position never materialized.

After a year off from coaching, Bell returns to lead the Catamounts who haven’t earned a playoff berth in since 1983. They’ve also gone 7-25 the past three years. He shared what he thinks it’ll take to turn WCU into a winner.

“We’ll build this thing the right way, and I think everybody will be proud of what we do,” Bell said. “I know we can build a program that’s solid for the next few years. You’ve gotta build a championship program in your building first before you worry about winning championships on the field. I have no doubt we’re going to win championships. I know how to do it and we’ll do it again.”