Arguably the biggest surprise in the NFL this season is Miami. A year after going 1-15, the worst season in the proud franchise’s history, the Dolphins joined the 1999 Indianapolis Colts as the only teams in NFL history to make 10-game improvements in one year.
The Fins won the AFC East championship on Sunday, knocking the Jets and Brett Favre out of the playoffs, with a 24-17 win in New York. For Miami, it’s the team’s first division title since 2000.
One of the biggest reasons for the Dolphins’ resurrection is the team’s defense. The leading tackler for Miami is former EKU defensive back Yeremiah Bell. Bell finished the regular season as one of the NFL’s top defensive playmakers, ranking in the top 20 in tackles, with 120. Bell also had a sack and forced three fumbles this year.
In Sunday’s win over New York, Bell had seven stops, and on one particular blitz, knocked down a Favre pass.
Bell’s story, while told numerous times, still is fascinating. He played high school football at George Rogers Clark, but wasn't’t highly recruited. In fact, Bell had so few scholarship offers that he decided to go work once he graduated from Clark Co.
Bell worked for two years in a local steel mill.
But football still was in his blood. He enrolled at Eastern Kentucky and contacted the football staff about walking-on. Coach Roy Kidd allowed Bell to join, and quickly, Bell became an impact player.
By the time his Colonel career was over, Bell was a finalist for the 2001 Buchanan Award, given annually to the 1-AA Player of the Year. He was named an All-American, two-time All-OVC defensive back and the OVC Defensive Player of the Year.
Bell missed his entire senior season due to a knee injury he suffered while playing pickup basketball.
Still, the Dolphins took a chance on Bell, and in 2003, drafted him in the sixth round. He was signed to the team’s practice squad.
In 2004, Bell played sparingly for the Dolphins’ special teams. Bell suffered a broken leg, ending his season after 13 games.
In 2005, Bell played in all 16 games. He finished the season with three sacks and an interception, which came against New England and Tom Brady.
He became a Miami regular in 2006, making 62 tackles and recording two sacks.
Bell started Miami’s first game in 2007, but suffered a torn Achilles tendon, ending his season.
With his season continuing, Bell and the Dolphins will begin the postseason at home. Miami will host Baltimore in the first round of the playoffs.
Before the start of the year, Bell, a free agent, signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins for $1.4 million. Now, after helping lead the Fins to a division title, and leading the team in tackles, Bell is set to sign a huge contract.
Not bad for a guy who spent two summers working for $8 an hour.
Those are the highlights… Stay tuned.