Rosemary Bell remembers how scared she was when her son, Jhamahl, had his blood pressure spike during practice.
A nurse herself, Rosemary almost didn’t let him play. Good thing for both that the mom let her son stick with football.
“It all goes back to her taking that chance with me,” Jhamahl said.
The 6-foot-4 Bell, who signed a national letter of intent with Arkansas State on Wednesday at Warren High School, evolved into a standout on the offensive and defensive lines, helping Warren win the past two 8-4A Conference championships and reach the 4A state championship game in 2013.
“I have a knot in my stomach,” Rosemary Bell said, witnessing her only child solidify his collegiate future.
The Bells were part of a ceremony that also saw Warren quarterback Drake Jones ink his NLI with Ouachita Baptist.
Jhamahl Bell, who weighs 238 pounds, has lost 111 pounds since his freshman season to stay in football shape. He went into this past season at 270 pounds.
But he’ll have to reverse his course just a little, because A-State coaches informed Bell during his visit he’ll need to gain 25 to 35 pounds, according to his mother.
“That’s good because it will be the right weight this time,” Bell said.
Family friend Tina Rochelle joked that will be nothing that “some hambone, neckbone and greens could not fix.”
“If ASU even thought we were serious, they might have a heart attack,” Rosemary Bell said.
Jhamahl Bell verbally committed to A-State last June, and the change in head coaches from Bryan Harsin to Blake Anderson did not waver his commitment. The future computer science major is expected to play offensive tackle in Jonesboro.
“I knew coach Anderson was going to bring in a good coaches,” Bell said. “(A-State is) constantly rising, kind of like TCU and Boise State. I feel that with Arkansas State.”
Warren coach Bo Hembree said Bell will need to work on perfecting a stride better suited to his athletic frame. His current stride, he added, is a carryover from his heavier days and is hindering his speed.
“He is going to do well in school with his grades as well on the field,” Hembree said.
Jones won the Farm Bureau Award as the 4A offensive player of the year this past fall. He led Southeast Arkansas quarterbacks with 2,438 passing yards and 26 touchdowns to go with 458 rushing yards and 13 scores.
But according to Jones, Ouachita’s tentative plans are to use him as an H-back, a wide receiver/tight end hybrid.
Sue Harper in Warren contributed to this story.