For two seasons at Oklahoma, Blake Bell took the notion that everybody loves the backup quarterback and ran with it.
But when Bell ascended to starting quarterback as a junior only to bounce back to a backup role, he didn't love it. That's when he started seeking a new role.
"It just came down to whether I was going to go play quarterback somewhere else or stay at OU and finish out my career," said Bell, who converted to tight end before his senior season and is now poised to be drafted as one. "I wanted to stay and finish out with the guys I came in with.
"I felt like that was the best opportunity for me."
His first two years with the Sooners, Bell was as productive a backup quarterback as you'll find – with his legs, at least. He often replaced starter Landry Jones in short-yardage packages, and the legend of the "Belldozer" was born as he took snaps out of the shotgun and then banged his way to 24 rushing touchdowns over the course of the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
In 2013, with Jones off to the NFL, Bell appeared to have a shot at starting. Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight beat Jones out in the offseason, but Knight suffered a knee injury in the second game that opened the door for Bell.
Bell went 6-2 as the starter, but the Sooners went back to Knight for the final two games of the regular season. Knight won both, then he won MVP honors after leading an impressive victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to seal his role as the starter entering the 2014 season.
That spring, Bell decided to reinvent himself.
"It was 100 percent me," Bell said. "Laying out my options, whether to transfer and play quarterback or switch to tight end, just talking to my family we made the decision to switch. I wanted to stay at Oklahoma, finish my career there."
At 6-6 and 250 pounds, Bell already had the size to play tight end, but the learning curve was steep (and in some ways still is). His numbers were modest last season - 16 catches for 214 yards and four touchdowns – but he has flashed enough potential to possibly be a middle- to late-round draft pick.
"I've got a long ways to go, but I'm only getting better," Bell said. "I felt like I was getting lot better toward the end of the season, and every single game I was picking up new things and better technique and stuff like that.
"At the East-West Shrine Game I felt good going against some of the best guys in the country. So I'd say that I'm happy with where I'm at, but I obviously want to keep getting better and better and better."
The intrigue over Bell only grew at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he posted the second-best time in the 60-yard shuttle run among tight ends and ranked in the top six with a 40 time of 4.80 seconds and a vertical jump of 33 inches. He also has bloodlines on his side: His father (Mark) and uncle (Mike) combined to play 18 NFL seasons at defensive end for three different teams.
Uncle Mike was the second overall selection by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1979 draft and twice was a Pro Bowl alternate. Father Mark – his twin brother - was a fourth-round pick the same year by the Seattle Seahawks. Mark played some tight end.
"It helps a lot, just with my dad and uncle telling me different things to work on and taking me through their process when they were going through this," Bell said. "This has been a dream of mine since I was very little. Obviously it was to play Division I football and the next step was the NFL, so I'm getting the opportunity of a lifetime."