Finland’s Kuopio Steelers have signed 25-year-old Justin Bell for the 2017 season.
Bell, (5’10”, 185 lb) graduated from Division II Ohio Dominican University in the spring of 2014. During his three years with the Ohio Dominican Panthers Bell racked up impressive stats as a defensive back and kick returner: 294 total tackles, 9 interceptions, 7 forced fumbles, 23 passes defensed and 14,2 yards per punt return. He was chosen First Team All-GLIAC (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) in 2012 and 2013 and named GLIAC Defensive Back of the Year in 2013.
After graduating, Bell went on to Italy to play for the Milan Seamen. During the 2015 season he had 8 interceptions, 2 of those returned for touchdowns and 3 forced fumbles. In a Euroleague game Bell also played on offense and had 3 total touchdowns playing running back and wide receiver. Last season Bell didn’t play in Europe. He focused his efforts on making it to the NFL.
Athleticism runs in Justin’s family, because his cousin is Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell, who was voted to the Pro Bowl and made First Team All-Pro in 2014.
Tell us a little about yourself and your football career so far?
“I have been playing football since the age of 5. I have played every skilled position that there is (offense and defense) and I’m very versatile and open to playing whatever position was best for every team that I’ve played for. I was All-State in high school, and an All-American in college.”
Why did you decide to come to Finland and join the Steelers?
“I decided to come to Finland and join the Steelers because I was told great things about the program. I have also had good talks with coach Pekka and I’ve watched some of the games from the last season and saw a team that was good and gave good effort on the field and that is the type of player and person that I am. I feel like I would be a great fit on the team.”
What are your expectations for the 2017 season, for the team and for yourself individually?
“My expectations for the 2017 season is to come to Kuopio to play some good football, join a great program that cares for each other and plays their hardest no matter the outcome of the game. For myself, I would like to come and do everything and be the person that the Steelers organization expected me to be, and more. I want to come join a team that cares for each other like family. Would be nice to join and be a part of great success on and off the field.”
What do you bring to the Kuopio Steelers and their fans?
“I would like you to know that you’re getting a hardworking, selfless person and I am going to give my all to you on and off the field. And anyone who wants to contact me for anything do not be afraid to. I am a friendly person with a positive mindset.”
Head Coach Pekka Utriainen is happy with the signing:
“Defensive backfield was a clear target for us when we began our search for reinforcements from across the Atlantic in the fall. Justin is going to be our defensive leader. He’s a versatile athlete, a weapon in the return game, he has experience in Europe and most importantly communicating with him has been very natural from the first messages and calls. Through a common acquaintance we both had done some background work on each other and without this contact it would’ve been pretty difficult to get a player with Justin’s credentials to join the Steelers.
“We are still looking for a similar type of player for a leadership role on offense as well, someone who can lift our level of play the best way possible. We wish and hope now, that our national players will get even more excited for this winter’s off-season, which is going to get truly started at the beginning of the year. One single player – even one of Justin’s caliber – can’t win championships on their own, it takes a great team around these star players.”
Check out Justin Bell’s highlights from the 2015 season with Italy’s Milano Seamen
Interested in playing American football in overseas?
Register on Europlayers.com.
Europlayers is the largest online database of American football players, teams and coaches. It is a connector, bringing together and introducing athletes to overseas teams. On the site you can begin researching teams around the world. Once you create a profile, you become searchable by hundreds of American football clubs around the world.