July 30, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Wayne State hero Joique Bell comes home a Lion

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Detroit — In Joique Bell’s case, you can always go home.

Home is Michigan, starting from his development at Benton Harbor High to his standout college career at Wayne State to his eventual return to the Lions in 2011.

On Wednesday, the third-year running back was the unofficial man of the hour as the Lions held their third practice of training camp at Wayne State’s Adams Field.

“I’m definitely excited; I’m definitely home,” Bell said. “For me to play college ball here, to be from Michigan, to play for Wayne State and now I’m playing for the Detroit Lions ... (it) is a great feeling.

“(There are) so many memories here, and it’s a feeling I’ll never forget.”

Bell won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the Division II player of the year at Wayne Sate in 2009, averaging 189 yards and finishing with 29 touchdowns his senior season.

After toiling with the Colts and Eagles, Bell got his break as a free agent with the Lions. He didn’t play in 2011, but made a mark as a dual-threat back the next season, with 82 rushes for 414 yards and three touchdowns and 52 catches for 485 yards, playing in all 16 games.

Last season was his most productive in the NFL with 166 carries for 650 yards and eight touchdowns and 53 catches for 547 yards.

“His personality is such that he’s just a quality guy,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He certainly is fun-loving, but he’s also a guy that’s serious about his craft.

“He’s got a lot to share and to teach young people that have come up the way in which he did and to come from a school like Wayne State. ... I think he’s a great inspiration.”

Caldwell was coach of Colts in 2010 when Bell bounced around. Caldwell didn’t see the development Bell would make in the ensuing years.

“Like all players, they mature, develop and gain a lot of knowledge just in terms of what it takes to play in this league,” Caldwell said. “They understand what it takes to take care of their bodies.

“Joique can dish it out a little bit too; he’s big and strong and he’s a bit bigger (230 pounds) than he was when (the Colts) had him in terms of weight, power and size.”

Promoting Wayne State

Bell was back on the field where he had his greatest memories, including the homecoming game his senior season when he helped Wayne State overcome a double-digit halftime deficit and beat Ashland.

“We ended up down 33-20 coming out of halftime and came back to win,” Bell recalled. “I actually scored the winning touchdown with 30 seconds left.”

He finished with 32 carries for 275 yards and five rushing touchdowns. His only catch of the game was the go-ahead score — a 45-yarder.

With a packed crowd in the stands Wednesday and tents surrounding Adams Field, Wayne State coach Paul Winters still was beaming about his former star.

“Look around — that’s what he means to the program,” said Winters, who is entering his 11th season and is the winningest coach in program history. “He’s what this university is about; he values it and he promotes it.”

Bell maintains a relationship with Wayne State, coming to some of the home games, hanging around the athletic facility and working out during his free time.

Before the practice, he addressed the fans.

“Walking back on this field brings back a lot of memories — my first touchdown right there, our first game right here,” Bell said. “Wayne State gave me the opportunity to come in and to show you guys what I can bring to the table.

“Coming here and seeing all the Lions fans, all my Wayne State family and all my support, I promise you we’re going to bring you guys the pride, the dedication, the commitment every single Sunday.”

'Put on a show'

Even though he’s almost assured of a roster spot — and expectations of big season — Bell still is leery of getting complacent.

Asked if he was going to do anything special for Wednesday’s practice, Bell didn’t depart from his blue-collar mantra.

“I’m going to put on a show and I’m going to come out and do what I do every practice: bust my butt and get better,” he said.

Bell wants his success story to serve as a continual reminder to young players — including those from Detroit’s Police Athletic League, who went through drills with Lions staff before the practice — to seize their opportunities.

“When you get to the NFL and me coming out undrafted from a small school, a lot of people counted me out,” Bell said. “But one thing you can never do in this league is lose confidence in yourself — one thing that I never lost —and it worked out for me.

“God had a plan for me and now I’m back home.”

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Joique Bell and coach Jim Caldwell arrive at Wayne State University Wednesday for a training camp session. / Daniel Mears/Detroit News