‘nova Hall Of Fame Note Arrived On Day Bell Died
By BILL FLEISCHMAN, Daily News Sports Writer www.philly.com 2/5/86
Former NFL Scout with Blesto Scouting Services
The letter informing Alex Bell that he will be inducted into the Villanova Hall of Fame this year arrived in Bell’s Bryn Mawr Hospital room on Monday. “The letter was on a desk, next to his bed, when I arrived,” Charlie Johnson, the captain of the Bell-coached 1961 Villanova Sun Bowl team, said last night. “It was unopened. I gave it to his wife, Marge, and told her I knew what was in it. I just hope she read it to Alex.”
Marge Bell did read the letter to Alex, before he died, at age 70, Monday night. That 17-9 Sun Bowl victory over Wichita State was one of the highlights of Bell’s 35-30-0 career at Villanova. The following year, Bell led the Wildcats into their most recent bowl appearance, a 6-0 loss to Oregon State and Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker in the Liberty Bowl on a bitterly cold afternoon at Municipal (now JFK) Stadium.
“My father was very proud of those bowl games,” Tom Bell, 38, said last night. “But the NCAA (basketball) championship last year was just as much of a thrill for him.” Some of the greatest players in Villanova football history were on Bell’s teams. Al Atkinson, Billy Joe, Larry Glueck and Sam Gruneisen all went on to play pro football. (Gruneisen, a 12-year pro, yesterday was named defensive coordinator at San Jose State). Ted Aceto, Villanova’s athletic director, was the quarterback on Villanova’s two bowl teams under Bell.
“He was more a fatherly figure than a coach,” Aceto said. “I got to know him better after graduation, when I was a graduate assistant on his staff. Then, when we lived in Ohio and he was scouting for BLESTO (the NFL scouting service) he would visit us. He was a real gentleman.”
One of Charlie Johnson’s favorite Alex Bell stories occurred as the Wildcats were leaving campus for the Sun Bowl, in El Paso, Texas. Glancing toward the crowd of cheering students at the send-off, Bell said, “See all those people? They’re the ones who scare me. I like the ones who send in $10 from Utah. They don’t bother you.”