5 Days: A Look Back at Gordon Bell

With game day week starting and only five days until the 2016 Michigan football season, we look back at Gordon Bell.  The Troy, Ohio native was a two-time All-Ohio running back and led Troy High School to undefeated seasons in 1970 and 1971. He came to Michigan after an impressive high school career. Below are his highlights and achievements:


  • He was sometimes referred to as Michigan’s “mighty mite tailback.”
  • In addition to his speed, what set him apart from other backs was his ability to cut and find the smallest of holes.
  • Bo Schembechler called Bell “the greatest cutback runner I’ve ever coached.”
  • As a sophomore in 1973, Bell saw his first action against Iowa. He was given five carries and gained 50 yards (including a 24-yard gain) for a ten-yard per carry average.
  • Bell did not start any games in 1973, but his playing time increased later in the season, including 19 carries against Minnesota for 73 yards and 15 carries against Indiana for 89 yards. For the season, Bell rushed for 464 yards in 88 carries.
  • The 1973 team finished with a record of 10–0–1, with the only imperfection coming at the end of the season with a 10–10 tie with Ohio State.
  • Despite tying for the Big Ten Conference championship, Big Ten athletic directors decided to send Ohio State to the Rose Bowl, and conference rules did not permit Michigan to play in another bowl game. Michigan ended up ranked number 6 in the final Associated Press poll.
  • In the 1974 season, Bell rushed for 1048 yards which was, at that time, the third highest single-season total in school history.

Records and Honors

  • Bell finished the 1975 season as the Big Ten’s leading rusher, was selected to the Associated Press All-Big Ten team,[41] was chosen as Michigan’s Most Valuable Player, and finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
  • In a year with an abundance of strong running backs, Bell and Earl Campbell were relegated to the AP’s third-team All-American, as Archie Griffin and Ricky Bell took first-team honors, and Tony Dorsett and Jimmy DuBose took second-team honors.
  • Bell’s career at Michigan was among the best in school history to that point. His school records included:
  • Bell set the single-season all-pure yards record in 1975 with 1,714 yards. Bell’s record stood until 1987 when it was broken by Jamie Morris. Bell’s total ranked eighth on Michigan’s all-time list at the end of 2006.
  • Bell’s 273 carries in 1975 broke Ron Johnson’s record of 255 carries set in 1968. Bell’s total remained the school record until 1987 when Jamie Morris carried the ball 282 times. Bell’s 1975 performance now ranks eighth on the all-time Michigan list.
  • In 1975, Bell set the Michigan record with eight 100-yard rushing games. That record stood for 12 years until Jamie Morris compiled ten in 1987.
  • Bell’s 1,390 yards rushing in 1975 was the second best single-season total in school history, just one yard short of the record set by Ron Johnson in 1967. Bell’s 1975 total now ranks 11th best in school history.
  • At the end of the 1975 season, Bell had rushed for a career total of 2,902 yards, second best in school history behind Billy Taylor’s record of 3,072 yards. Bell’s career total still ranks ninth best in school history.
  • Bell’s 210-yard rushing game in the season opener against Wisconsin was the fourth best in school history at the time, behind Ron Johnson’s 347-yard game against the Badgers in 1968. Bell is one of twelve backs in Michigan history to rush for 200 yards in a game.
  • Bell’s 13 rushing touchdowns in 1975 was the second best in school history, behind Ron Johnson’s 19 touchdowns in 1968. His total is now tied for 11th best in school history.
  • Bell’s 28 career rushing touchdowns ranked third in school history, behind Billy Taylor and Tom Harmon.
  • Bell finished his career at Michigan ranked second behind Bob Nussbaumer in career yards per carry and now ranks ninth.
  • Bell’s 35 carries against Illinois in 1975 was the second most in school history at the time, behind Ron Johnson’s 42-carry performance in 1967. He is now tied for twelfth in school history.
  • Bell’s 535 career carries was second to Billy Taylor at the time of Bell’s graduation. It now ranks tenth.
    Bell ranked third in career all-purpose yards (behind Ron Johnson and Billy Taylor).


  • Bell was drafted by the New York Giants in the fourth round of the 1976 NFL Draft. Bell did not get much playing time early in the 1976 season with the Giants.
  • During 1978, he was briefly on the Green Bay Packers roster during training camp, and he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in November.
  • In 1978, Bell had more kickoff returns (eight) than rushes (seven) with St. Louis.

After retiring from football, Bell ran a barbecue restaurant in Dayton, Ohio. He later sold radio advertising in Detroit, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois.

Go Blue!

David Noe