LAURINBURG — Scotland senior Warren Bell’s days as quarterback are behind him, but his football career is just getting started.
Warren, along with eight of his teammates, signed his letter of intent on National Signing Day to play Division II college football at Lenoir-Rhyne University — as a running back.
In his first, and only, season as Fighting Scot Warren broke school rushing records and led his team to the 4A state championship. Bell transferred to Scotland last summer after three years at Westover High School, a 3A school in Fayetteville.
“It was like Christmas in July,” said Scots head coach Richard Bailey. “People usually throw that out just kidding, but I was serious — it was the best Christmas present ever when Warren’s mom came here with him and they decided to make a move here. They felt like it was a great opportunity for Warren to get better exposure and get him a college scholarship.”
Despite having played quarterback for Scotland, Warren will transition to being a full-time running back for the Bears come fall.
Lenoir-Rhyne is a private liberal arts university nestled in the small-town of Hickory, almost three hours from Laurinburg. The Bears are a Division II football team that plays in the South Atlantic Conference (SAC), which features colleges and universities from North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina including Catawba College, Wingate University and Coker College.
The Bears finished last season 3-7 overall and 2-5 in the South Atlantic Conference under new head coach Drew Cronic, who was hired in December replacing former head coach Mike Kellar. Kellar had a 6-15 record in his two season as Lenoir-Rhyne’s head coach and was let go following the Bears season-ending loss to Catawba.
Warren said he was welcomed into the program when he took his visit and being a running back instead of quarterback suits him better.
“It felt like family and it was just the right fit for me,” he said.
Running the ball is something Warren is quite accustomed to, during his senior campaign he was second in rushing yards only to University of Georgia freshman Zamir White. Warren had 215 carries for 2,093 yards and 27 touchdowns. Warren set the single-game rushing record at Scotland against South Central in the first round of the playoffs with 16 carries for 380 yards. White held the previous record, set earlier in the season, with 312 yards.
“Going into back-to-back playoff games after we lost Zamir and rush for 380 and 312 it propelled us to the state championship and we wouldn’t have gotten there without Warren Bell,” said Bailey.
Warren hasn’t decided what he wants to major in, but has narrowed it down to two professions — elementary school teacher or social worker.
The senior said he isn’t nervous about the demands of being a college student and an athlete.
“It’s what I have to do in order to be successful in life and I’m willing to do it,” he said.
The driving force behind Warren’s success, drive and dedication is his mom. Warren said Lenoir-Rhyne was just far enough away that it will force him to grow up, but still close enough his mom and the rest of his family can come watch him play.
“You have to spread your wings eventually. I had to grow up and be a man and get away from mama a little bit — but not too far, I’m a mama’s boy,” he said. “It’s been a long journey coming from little to what I am now. My mom has been with me through everything. Whatever make me happy makes my mom happy and I just wanted to put a smile on her face. She deserves this and she’s a great mom and mentor.”
Warren also wanted to thank the Scotland County community that welcomed him in and put their faith in him to lead the Fighting Scots to a 4A championship.
“It meant a lot, I had a lot of people behind me. Coach Bailey trusted and believed in me and everyone felt like I could get the job done and I think I did it pretty well,” he said.
Bailey echoed that statement and said that Warren is a winner and that people just gravitate to him.
“He came in immediately and took over a leadership role, which is hard to do coming into a new program,” Bailey said. “He’s got that infectious smile and comes to work every day ready to make himself a better football player.”
Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]