Dealing with Adversity Growing up Made Byron Bell Stronger

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Byron Bell had high hopes heading into the 2016 season, but they crumbled the day he suffered a season-ending ankle injury back in May.

For a few days, the Titans offensive lineman was down.

"When I got placed on Injured Reserve,'' Bell said, "now that was hard."

Then, Bell looked at the big picture, and his life. He knew he'd overcome plenty of adversity to reach the NFL on his road to being a role model for those back home.

"I have been through way worse,'' Bell said after finishing a workout at Saint Thomas Sports Park. "I lost a home. I lost a brother. I am not going to say I was homeless, but I pretty much lost everything a while back. … I lost my dad at a young age. So me breaking my ankle, this is nothing.

"I was down on myself at first, but the good Lord, the thing about him, he doesn't make mistakes. He brought me this for a reason. This is my sixth year in the league and I wasn't supposed to make it this far. But I am just blessed to be a part of this National Football League fraternity, and the injury isn't going to stop me. I have been through way worse than an ankle."

Bell, who started all 16 games last season on the offensive line, suffered a dislocated left ankle on the first day of organized team activities in May when he stepped on the back of a teammate's heal. While on the ground, Bell looked up and saw his heel pointing to the sky.

"It freaked me out,'' he said.

Offensive Lineman Byron Bell signs his contract at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Jeff Harding)

He was carted off the field, had surgery the next day and then went on IR. Bell was in a cast for three weeks, and then went into a boot. He's working out to stay in shape now, and the injury is healing.

But his recovery process will continue for months. Bell, who has started 72 of 78 games during his NFL career, said he's been buoyed by the support of his teammates and coaches.

"I am in good spirits,'' Bell said. "It was an accident, and part of the game. And it was just my time I guess. It's the first major injury since I have been in the game. But I am on track and working out and the support from my teammates, my former teammates, coaches, it's been great.

"And this injury isn't going to stop me. Brian Schwenke broke his ankle and he is out there playing, Justin Hunter broke his ankle and he is out there running smooth routes. I will be out there kick-sliding in no time."

Bell said he's mentally strong from his days as a youngster.

Bell's father died of an undiagnosed heart condition when he was five. His younger brother, Isaiah, died in a fire at the family home on the night of December 21, 2007. He was just eight years old. Bell was away in college when the fire took place back home in Greeneville, Texas. The news crushed him. It also made him stronger.

As his teammates prepare for the 2016 season, and he continues to rehab, Bell said he won't get down on himself.

He was reminded of his good fortune during a visit to the grocery store this offseason, when he encountered a woman returning items she couldn't afford to buy. Bell stopped her and told her to keep the items in her cart. Then he went to the counter and paid for them.

"I have been blessed,'' Bell said. "And I think all the tragedies in my past help turn me into the man I am today. I feel like in heaven there is a thin veil and (my father and brother) are looking down on me.

"I am going to be OK, and this injury isn't going to stop me. This is some minor issue. I know people are looking up to me and counting on me and if I get down on myself I can't help the next man along. So I have to stay upbeat. So if coach needs me to talk to a guy or help a young guy in the room, I will do it. I am still a member of this team, I am just not playing. We are in this together. I am blessed to have positive people around me."

TitansOnline.com looks at the 2015 season of OL Byron Bell. (AP Photos)

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