‘It’s surreal’: UDFA safety Markquese Bell on cusp of making Cowboys roster after big night

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When Markquese Bell thinks back on his first interception at the NFL level, the memory will play out in slow motion.

Because it unfolded that way in real life.

The undrafted rookie safety snagged one of four Cowboys picks on Friday in the team’s preseason finale versus Seattle, but Bell had an extra second or two to think about it while the ball was in the air.

Seahawks quarterback Drew Lock’s third quarter pass bounced off the pads of wide receiver Aaron Fuller and then practically went into orbit. Cornerback Isaac Taylor-Stuart and Bell both converged on the ball as it tumbled back to earth; Bell hopped up to meet it and kept on running, racing 30-some yards before being dragged to the turf.

The pick played out just as Cowboys passer Dak Prescott was giving a sideline interview, coincidentally talking at that moment about the team’s young players stepping up to contribute when needed this season.

The timing almost seemed scripted, it was so perfect.

But Bell said later that he was just worried about ensuring the potentially star-making moment didn’t turn into a blooper.

“I’m looking at the ball in the air,” the 23-year-old recalled after the 27-26 win. “The ball was so big. I’m like, ‘Don’t drop it.’ Once I got it in my hands, I was just trying to score with it. I was just blessed to have the opportunity, [to] get out on the field and make a play.”

Bell has made plenty of plays since joining the Cowboys in the spring. He made a quick reputation in camp as a hard hitter who also has a nose for the ball.

Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn loved his multi-skilled qualities coming out of Florida A&M.

“I was really pushing to get him drafted as a linebacker,” Quinn recalled earlier in August, “and then when we selected a linebacker, I said, ‘This guy will make a hell of a safety.'”

Quinn joked then that he needed three weeks “in the lab” with Markquese to find out what he is truly capable of on a football field. Exactly three weeks and two days later, Bell showed it versus Seattle.

He even made NFL analyst Brian Baldinger a fan.

“He throws his whole shoulder in there, puts his body into it. Excellent tackler,” the ex-Cowboy said in a Twitter breakdown of the Seattle game.

“This kid’s got something to him,”Baldinger went on. “He’s a player.”

Bell seems a lock to make the team, the latest hybrid player on a Dallas defense that seems to be mass-producing them under Quinn.

But there is still the matter of officially surviving final cuts. The New Jersey native isn’t taking it for granted, admitting he’s just trying to enjoy every moment of this journey with America’s Team.

“It’s surreal,” Bell said. “I’m still like, ‘I’m here.’ I wear a star on my shirt every day. Like, ‘I’m on the Cowboys right now.’ You’ve still got to get used to it.”

It sure looks like Bell will have that chance when the roster is announced on Tuesday.

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Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire