Super 11 surprise: Tennessee native makes the team

Super 11  player Vonn Bell is the consensus No. 4 recruit in Georgia. (Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com)

Super 11 player Vonn Bell is the consensus No. 4 recruit in Georgia. (Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com)

The past year has been full of thrills and surprises for Vonn Bell, and being selected to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s annual Super 11 team is one of the biggest.

That’s because Bell, rated as the No. 3 safety prospect in the nation by one recruiting site, doesn’t live in Georgia.

In fact, he is the first Super 11 selection from Tennessee … or any state other than Georgia. He plays at Ridgeland High in the hills of Walker County, about a 40-minute commute from his family’s home in Ooltewah, Tenn., a little town outside of Chattanooga.

“I feel like a Georgia boy somewhat after going to battle with my Georgia team every Friday night,’’ Bell said. “It feels like home. My coaches welcomed me with open arms.’’

Living outside school-district lines is common for Georgia athletes. Living in another state is not.

Bell’s mother, Vanessa, has worked as a special education inclusion instructor at Ridgeland for four years. Like many school systems, Walker County allows the children of faculty to enroll in its schools regardless of address. The Georgia High School Association normally requires for transfer students to move into the school district to be eligible for sports, but it makes exceptions if the legal guardian is a teacher, coach or counselor at the school.

The move was Vanessa Bell’s idea. She was concerned that Vonn’s former school, Chattanooga Central, was changing head coaches for the third time in three seasons. And she also thought Georgia football was stronger.

After playing in Georgia for a season, the son agreed.

“We play against a good D-I prospect every Friday, and you get to see what you can do against them,’’ Bell said. “Coaches look for how players respond to competitors like that.’’

Bell joins a Super 11 group that includes the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Grayson defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, who has committed to Clemson. The Super 11 list also includes players who have committed to Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt and UCLA. Bell is one of only two who has not made his college choice. Dooly County’s Montravius Adams, the No. 1-rated defensive tackle in the country, is the other.

Ridgeland was 7-5 last season. The Panthers were eliminated from the playoffs by Peach County, which featured 2012 Super 11 receiver Demarcus Robinson.

Bell was credited with 180 tackles in 2011. He had five interceptions and five fumble recoveries, three returned for touchdowns. He had more than 1,000 all-purpose yards.

“Please help me pass his name to people who need to know,’’ Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis wrote in a December e-mail that nominated Bell for all-state. “Transferred to us from Tennessee school, so his name in Georgia is not out there yet. Will be major D-I player.’’

Mariakis was right, although Bell had no scholarship offers at the time. Mariakis sent out highlight tapes. Bell’s older brother, former college basketball player Volonte Bell, made one of his own and posted it on YouTube.

Georgia’s Mark Richt was the first high-profile head coach to respond. He offered Bell a scholarship based on the tapes alone.

“I’ll never forget the day, Jan. 7,’’ Bell said. “Coach Richt called my coach. That’s when he offered me a scholarship. It took off from there. Once an SEC school offers, they’re all going to offer.’’

Vanessa Bell has a scrapbook that keeps the business cards from college coaches she has met since Jan. 7. She has 29 of them. Bell is now a five-star recruit, according to Scout.com.

Vanessa says living in the Chattanooga area and working at Ridgeland doesn’t seem unnatural, that a friend teases that she has lived as a nomad all her life. She was born in Kansas, reared in Kentucky. Her husband, Vencent, grew up in Mississippi and played football at Murray State, where the couple met. They’ve lived in Texas and Alabama … and now 10 years in Tennessee.

Vonn has narrowed his college choices to Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Texas and Clemson.

“I wasn’t expecting this, but I always dreamed of it,’’ Bell said. “Now, I’m living it, and I’m very thankful.’’

16 comments Add your comment

BigDawg

August 18th, 2012
3:08 pm

Come join us!

BigDawg

August 18th, 2012
3:09 pm

We’re def on the way back!!

bucket

August 18th, 2012
3:43 pm

So using the logic of the UGA haters Bell should be a lock to UGA because CMR was on him first and offered him before everyone else. Obviously, that’s not the way the game is really played, but I just thought I would get that out there.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Destin Dawg

August 18th, 2012
4:40 pm

come to UGA, be part of the rejuvenated Junk Yard Dawgs .. get coached up by Todd Grantham and Scott Lakatos.. things are going up hill in Athens, Ga. win this SEC Champs THIS year.. Go Dawgs !! 2 weeks !!

Drago

August 18th, 2012
4:55 pm

No Tray Matthews, hmmmmm.

independent

August 18th, 2012
7:01 pm

UGA #6 going to #1 when we beat Bama … Go Dawgs !!

Remarkable

August 18th, 2012
7:44 pm

Mark Richt was First! Doesn’t that count for anything?
Kudos CMR.

Hubert Green

August 18th, 2012
8:16 pm

So Joshua Dobbs is one of the best 11 QB’s in the nation and he doesn’t make this list? Wow

harold

August 18th, 2012
10:52 pm

THESE STUDS WANT TO PLAY FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM LIKE LSU OR ALABAMA. THEY ALSO PREFER ACHAMPIONSHIP COACH LIKE NICK SABAN OR LES MILES.

RICHT IS ONLY 23-16 HIS LAST THREE YEARS AND HE IS 9-30 AGAINST RANKED TEAMS.

THEY DON’T WANT TO SIT ON THE BENCH BEHIND THE “DREAM TEAM”. IF THEY WANT TO PLAY AND CONTRIBUTE IMMEDIATELY THEY GO TO TENNESSEE OR AUBURN—-TWO TEAMS TO WATCH OUT FOR THIS YEAR.

DOOLEY AND THE VOLS COULD “SHOCK” SOME PEOPLE!

independent

August 19th, 2012
6:57 am

DOOLEY AND THE VOLS ” SHOCK ” ???????? not much chance of that… less than 2 weeks… can’t wait !!!

Bama Boy

August 19th, 2012
7:22 am

Number 15 not far off now!Oh!Oh !Alabama

Destin Dawg

August 19th, 2012
10:52 am

O line and the whole team will have more stamina as a result of improved S & C program and nutrionist Ken Ketterly’s super daily buffet at Butts Mehre….. Go dawgs win the SEC Champs THIS year !!!

FAN

August 19th, 2012
1:53 pm

Harold tennessee is going to shock people like racking up the losses. Wake up son!!! Dooley on the way out,remember i told you.

GoBucks

August 20th, 2012
12:42 pm

Ohio State, all the way!!!

13' GA S Vonn Bell - Page 141 - VolNation

September 9th, 2012
10:55 pm

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