RACINE — At all of 7 years old, Landon Bell recently got a bit of a feel for the big time on the gridiron.
Bell, who plays on the Racine Rebels U8 team for Racine Youth Sports, was in the Atlanta, Georgia, area the weekend of Jan. 12-15 for the D1 Spects All-American Bowl youth football tournament.
While his East All-Stars team lost both of its games — one of them in triple overtime — it was more about the experience for Bell, the son of Jaarael Bell and Abby Fox.
“We took last place, but it was still good,” Landon said. “I needed to work really hard.”
Landon plays running back for the Rebels — his dad is the coach of the team — and Jaarael sent in a video nomination for Landon to three All-Star platforms. One was in Florida and one was in Virginia.
Landon was invited to all three in November, but his parents opted for the D1 Spects game because he would be playing against players closer to his own size and within his 7-year-old age group.
“He plays with 8- and 9-year-olds in Racine and he’s a little guy,” Jaarael said. “But he gets away with it because of athletic ability.”
According to the D1 Spects website, the fee for trying out is $50 and the cost of playing in the game is $199. The $50 is deducted from the game fee if the player makes the team.
“I decided as a parent, since he excelled here and he does what he’s supposed to do in the classroom, and being a leader on the field, it’s something we can give back to him and he can do,” Jaarael said.
Family road trip
The family chose to drive to Georgia — it took 13 hours — and aside from an ice-cold pool at their first hotel, the trip went well.
Outside of the football games, Landon said his favorite things he got to do were go to SkyZone, an indoor trampoline park, and see SunTrust Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves.
The All-Star teams had just two practices to prepare for the games, which were played on the weekend of Jan. 13-14. Landon’s team included players from Texas, Florida and Georgia, and he was the only Wisconsin player on his team.
Jaarael said Landon played primarily quarterback on offense and free safety on defense, but also played running back and cornerback. He had four quarterback keepers and gained 25 yards, and on defense he had three solo tackles, four assists and one pass breakup.
Jaarael and Abby couldn’t be more proud of their son’s efforts.
“It was nice to see him keep up with the other kids,” Jaarael said. “That was the biggest question — could he keep up with other kids from Georgia? That’s where they say youth football lives.”
Said Abby: “I worried, once I saw the size of them. But he kept up. I was proud of him.”
Landon’s RYS Rebels team this season missed the RYS Super Bowl for the first time in three years. He had to fill in as quarterback in the playoffs after the regular quarterback got hurt and couldn’t play.