Nick Bell, a sophomore defensive end on the Mississippi State football team, died at University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital Tuesday. He was 20.
His death was announced by MSU officials at 3:35 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.
Bell had underwent emergency surgery early Monday morning after his form of skin cancer had metastasized through his body. Bell had had a previous surgery on his brain performed at Vanderbilt University by former Mississippi State graduate Dr. Allen Sills on Oct. 1 to remove a mass, which was discovered by MSU physicians after he developed headaches and hand weakness. Tests indicated that this mass is a form of skin cancer which is related to lesion that was removed from his forehead two years ago.
"Rhonda joins with me and Bulldogs everywhere in expressing our sympathies to Nick Bell's family, teammates, and friends during this difficult time," MSU president Mark Keenum said today in a university release. "Nick was an outstanding young man, who proudly represented our university with character and enthusiasm in everything he did. He was an exemplary student athlete, always giving the maximum effort on the football field and in the classroom. Nick left us too soon, and we mourn his passing, but we also celebrate the impact he made and fondly recount the many lives he touched in our Bulldog family.”
He is survived by his mother Linda Bell, who currently resides in Bessemer, Ala.
On Oct. 23, Bell was on the sidelines with his teammates, wearing his jersey and watching State defeat UAB on Homecoming night at Davis-Wade Stadium.
"This is a tragedy for Nick’s family, our football program, our community and everyone who had the privilege to meet and be around Nick Bell," Mississippi State head football coach Dan Mullen said in a statement. "Nick was a son and a brother to our football family and I know he will continue to look over us from heaven. Nick lived his life like a champion and will always be remembered in our hearts that way. During this impossible time, we pray for Nick’s family and all those he has touched.”
During a Monday morning speech to the The Monday Morning Quarterback Club in Birmingham, Mullen informed the group that the cancer has spread throughout Bell’s body. Shortly after his speaking engagement, Mississippi State University released a statement about Bell's condition.
"There are few people in the world who have the unique ability to light up a room – Nick was one of those extraordinary individuals," Megan Mullen said Tuesday. "Every single one of us in the Bulldog football family is a better person for having Nick in our lives.”
Stricklin substituted for Mullen's scheduled Monday evening speech at the Jackson Touchdown Club meeting at River Hills Club, informing the participants of that Bell was "fighting for his life" and that Bell's illness is "really devastating" for all those involved in State's athletic department.
"Words can't express our sadness," Stricklin said Tuesday. "Nick was a model student-athlete – special in the classroom, on the field and to those whose lives he touched. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, his teammates and his coaches. He will be missed by the entire Mississippi State community and our athletic department family.”
Bell started two of the four games he played in this season, compiling seven tackles and two for a loss. In his MSU career, Bell has 22 tackles and four and a half stops for a loss. The 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive end played in all 12 games last year as a red-shirt freshman earning a pair of starts and recording 15 total tackles in his first season with the maroon and white.
Bell was recruited to State out of Jess Lanier High in Bessemer, Ala., by the staff of former MSU head coach Sylvester Croom. Bell began his high school career at Adamsville (Ala.) Minor High School and committed to State on November 2007.
Bell is the first Mississippi State football player to pass away since Keffer McGee's life ended on Aug. 5, 1997 in a drowning accident at a Starkville apartment complex.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced by the family at this time, but the Mississippi State Athletic Department will establish a memorial fund for the Bell family through the Bulldog Club. More details will be available online at http://www.mstateathletics.com/  and donations can be made by calling (662) 325-3074. The department will also deliver messages and cards sent to the family. The MSU Athletic Department mailing address is PO Box 5308, Mississippi State, MS, 39762.