The sighting was quite by accident.
I’d exhausted Twitter, Facebook, etc., on my phone and took the next step — to the local newspaper sports section. There, I spotted an Associated Press feature on officials written by friend Ralph Russo. In my travels covering WVU, I’d frequently run into Ralph so I thought I’d give his story a whirl.
And I’m glad I did. Weaved into the piece was the name of referee Grantis Bell.
Does that, well, ring a bell to you?
If you followed WVU football when Major Harris led the Mountaineers to a national championship appearance, it should.
Bell and Reggie Rembert were flankers on that Fiesta Bowl team. In his four years with the Mountaineers, Bell caught 46 passes for 819 yards and six touchdowns.
As Russo pointed out, though, Bell is now a full-time football official with the Southeastern Conference.
Apparently, after his playing days, Bell played a little professional ball and coached some at Coconut Creek High in Florida. He’s a counselor now in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but also an SEC official after moving through the ranks from pee-wee football on up.
His is a fascinating story. After WVU, Bell was a member of the Washington Redskins’ and New York Jets’ developmental squads and was later part of a 1992 class action lawsuit that included 235 former players. Ex-WVU lineman Pat Marlatt was also involved and was awarded $111,375. Bell was to receive $147,000 in overdue wages.
Anyway, Bell has now been an SEC official for six years. He was named one of 39 to participate in the NFL “Officiating Development Program” that works offseason and preseason NFL practices and games. He officiated six games in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF) and has worked arena league games for 11 years.
This past week, though, he and six other officials gave the media a crash course in the job. He told Russo the challenge of a referee is both mental and physical.
“Because players are faster and play is faster, we have to be quicker,” Bell said. “So, mentally we’ve got to be tougher. Physically, we’ve got to be more fit.”
Oh, and there’s one more twist to Bell’s story. He has a son, Myles Bell, who is a well-regarded freshman cornerback for Connecticut coach Randy Edsall.
“Myles is a really good cover guy, is smart, instinctive and has all the things you’re looking for,” Edsall told UConn Country. “He’s just a great young man who is very talented.”
While on the subject of those with WVU athletics in their background, a national radio commercial recently caught my attention.
It featured former Mountaineer women’s basketball coach Susan Walvius.
Don’t remember her? Don’t beat yourself up. Walvius and ex-WVU player Alexis Basil were both head coaches for short stints after Scott Harrelson and before Mike Carey. (Basil, by the way, is now an assistant athletic director for compliance at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.)
Walvius was the head coach for two seasons in Morgantown (her 1996-97 team went 19-12) before becoming the head coach at South Carolina for 11 seasons.
Anyway, Walvius has teamed with Michelle Marciniak, a former assistant and national champion basketball player at Tennessee, to found SHEEX, Inc.
That’s a bed linen company that produces sheets and pillow cases “constructed from advanced athletic-performance fabrics.”
So now you know.
I received a text from my old WVU classmate and current XFL commissioner Oliver Luck telling me about opportunities for some former Mountaineer football players.
Among those listed at the XFL summer showcase in Washington, D.C., were Isaiah Hardy, Marquis Lucas, Elijah Battle, Brandon Napoleon, K.J. Dillon, Robert Sands, Jeremy Tyler, Terence Garvin, Christian Brown and Darrien Howard.
Have a great week.
Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, be sure to call us at 304-905-6005.