Rising senior Trinity Bell has been a starter for the Albertville varsity boys basketball team since the eighth grade.
The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Bell appeared to be headed for a future in college basketball until his junior year, when he returned to the gridiron for the first time since his eighth-grade season.
Bell’s performance for the Aggies in 2019, combined with his size and athleticism, grabbed the attention of college football coaches and recruiting websites.
“I think I just decided to play college football when I like tripled my basketball offers in football,” Bell said. “So, I was like, ‘Maybe I need to play some football.’”
Bell received 32 football scholarship offers. Over the past month, he trimmed his list to eight schools, then to five and finally to Tennessee and Auburn. On May 22, he announced his verbal commitment to the Volunteers, whose 2021 signing class is currently ranked No. 2 by both Rivals and 247sports.com.
Rivals ranks Bell as the No. 15 prospect in Alabama for the class of 2021, while 247sports.com lists him at No. 16. Both websites classify him as a 3-star recruit.
Bell said it was a tough decision to choose between Tennessee and Auburn.
“I had good relationships with Auburn and Tennessee, but at the end of the day, Tennessee went above and beyond to get to know me as a player and a person,” Bell said.
Tennessee’s head coach is Jeremy Pruitt, the son of former Albertville head coach Dale Pruitt.
“I told Coach Pruitt like a week prior to me committing that I was coming, and he was pretty excited about it,” Bell said. “I think he was really happy about it.
“Coach Dale called me [Tuesday night] and he was like, ‘Congratulations. I’m so proud of you. I can’t wait.’”
Jeremy Pruitt flew to Albertville and visited Bell in the AHS field house. He’s the only head coach who came to campus to recruit the Aggie standout.
“Watching that unfold, I can tell why Jeremy Pruitt’s a good recruiter, just from being able to sit in the room with him and Trinity,” Albertville head coach Cliff Mitchell said. “Tennessee’s got a good one.”
The Vols recruited Bell to play tight end. At his size, he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds.
“I talked to the OC [offensive coordinator Jim Chaney], and he said they run a pro-style offense,” Bell said. “They use the tight ends a lot, and I’d be a big help for them. That’s another reason I had to go to Tennessee over Auburn. Auburn really wasn’t going to utilize me like that.”
The Tigers recruited Bell as a defensive end.
Joe Osovet coaches the Volunteers’ tight ends. Pruitt promoted him to tight ends coach in February after he spent his first two years at UT in an off-the-field role.
“I talk to Coach Pruitt occasionally, but the person I talk to daily is Coach Os, and Coach Os said he was going to help me make sure I had a starting position as soon as I got there,” Bell said. “And it starts now. Like, he’s Facetiming me and showing me drills I could do at home.”
Bell chose to commit now because the recruiting process was taking a toll on him.
“I’m really blessed to even get this opportunity,” he said. “I’m really excited about it, and I’m just waiting for it to go down and unfold.
“It was really stressful on the other side. I was just ready to get it out of the way. I couldn’t go another whole year and get even more offers, and texting every coach every day. I couldn’t do that anymore. It’s like picking a girlfriend.”
Bell is one of six commitments in UT’s 2021 class from Alabama. The others are Handley defensive end Dylan Brooks, McGill-Toolen receiver Jordan Mosley, UMS-Wright safety Edwin White, Oxford receiver Roc Taylor and Demopolis safety Jay Jones.
“I know Roc Taylor — I played basketball with him on an AAU team,” Bell said. “I know Dylan Brooks. Dylan and Roc are my guys.”
Mitchell said the commitment is exciting for Bell and the Aggie family.
“Coach Mac [Paul McAbee] said he thinks Trinity is the first Aggie football player to go to Tennessee,” Mitchell said.
“We’re proud of the tradition and the guys who have been able to sign here, and if Trinity sticks with it, he is going to make the wall [of fame] and we’ll have some Tennessee orange to add to the wall.
“People have asked me about that wall, and Coach Mac started it. You have to make first team All-State or play college football for three years to make the wall. College football is tough. A lot of kids sign and don’t make it longer than a couple of years.
“I think we’ve got several guys in this senior class who have a chance to get on the wall. Trinity is the first one to get to sign, but I don’t think he’s going to be the last one. I think we’ve got several more who are going to be able to play at the next level. I’m proud of all these guys.
“I was proud that ‘T’ picked Tennessee, because he’s very familiar with the Pruitts — coach Dale Pruitt, coach Jeremy Pruitt and coach Luke Pruitt. All those guys were very good to me, and I think they’ll watch after Trinity. I also hope to get to make a few trips up there.”