Whenever a player returns to play in the NFL city where he grew up there is naturally going to be a good contingent of friends and family eager to come out and support him. That scenario may be taken to the extreme with Bills rookie RB Joique Bell this evening when the Bills face the Lions in their preseason finale (6:30 pm kickoff).
In addition to friends and family from his native Benton Harbor, Michigan, Bell's entire college football roster from nearby Wayne State as well as a host of other college students will be pulling for the former Warrior.
"I've heard a lot of people are going to be there," said Bell who is expecting hundreds of supporters. "The Wayne State colors will be flying big. It's only about a two-minute or three-minute drive."
Bell knows the route from his former campus to Ford Field all too well having worked security at the Lions stadium while in school.
His supporters have been lighting up his phone in the days leading up to the game and he genuinely appreciates the well wishes.
"They're texting, facebook, calling," he said. "They're telling me that I'm making them proud back in Detroit, and that they're excited about the game. Just a lot of positive messages."
On a Bills roster where the deepest position is probably running back, the deck might appear stacked against the former Division II Player of the Year. But Bell has made his share of plays in the preseason and ranks fifth in the league in preseason rushing. He also has a pair of touchdowns.
Bell's main competition behind the likes of Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch and C.J. Spiller has been Chad Simpson. Knowing the Bills are likely to rely on their run game offensively this season, it's not unreasonable to think they'll keep four running backs and a fullback when final cuts are made this weekend. Head coach Chan Gailey admits it's a tight race between Bell and Simpson.
"They've done a good job. They're both very unique runners," Gailey said. "They have different styles, but they've both done a great job. That's one of those that we have to take a hard look at before we get to Saturday."
Playing in front of the hometown faithful might make some rookies even more nervous to perform, especially with an NFL job possibly riding on how he plays this evening. For Bell that's simply not the case.
"It excites me," he said. "It'll give me more confidence than anything to know I have supporters out there. I know I won't let them down because I worked too hard to get here. When I go out there I don't have the glossy eyes at all because this is something that I've worked for and always worked on and it's here so it's something I have to capitalize on."
Members of Buffalo's coaching staff are well aware of the homecoming for Bell and are interested to see if playing close to home serves as inspiration.
"The coaches are asking me what I'm going to do," said Bell. "They're expecting a lot from me. They've told me as of now I'm going to be the returner on the opening kickoff. But I love the pressure and the more they put pressure on me the more I know they're looking for a lot out of me. So I'm going to go out there and give it my all. Giving my all has never let me down before so I'll just keep doing it."