Every now and then I wonder about someone I once knew or once met a long time ago and ask the question, 'whatever became of them?' I will likely need to depend upon some of my buddies from MTSU for this one, because today I'm wondering,'whatever happened to Gary Bell?' Gary was a football player at Middle Tennessee State in the early 1970s. He was a nose tackle on the Blue Raider football team, standing about 5' 10" and weighing in at around 240 pounds. Not that big really, but Gary Bell was one of the toughest, meanest, football players I ever saw. Even on the coldest of days, he would still wear that jersey that came down to the top of his stomach. He had a huge scar that looked like a cut from a very large knife.
He loved to show it off, and there were many stories about where he got that scar. No one really knows for sure, but I heard everything from a knife fight in a beer joint, to a bad accident. Only Gary would know what really caused that scar.
I was a student at MTSU, working on the Blue Raider Radio Network when Gary Bell came to MTSU. He constantly seemed to be in trouble, but never in enough hot water to be suspended or be dismissed from school. The MTSU football teams weren't very good when he played there, but he was always a stand out. He would be forced to fight off double and triple teams to make tackles, and he would always make plenty of them. I remember what a good player he was, but my best memory of Gary Bell had nothing at all to do with football.
In the spring of 1973 the weather was always very good. Warm days, with clear skies always tended to bring out the best (or worst) of college students. On this one particular Thursday afternoon, near the end of the spring semester, a huge crowd of students had gathered in the middle of campus, near the student center. College kids from all walks of life were there taking advantage of great weather and the nearing end of a long school year. I was there with my future wife, Shelia and some of our friends. Suddenly, a young man with his long hair in a pony tail came running by us, accompanied by a pair of young coeds. We all gasped as they passed by us, because they were all three naked; except for the tennis shoes they wore. You see, "streaking" as it was called, had been taking the nation by storm, especially on college campuses. The three of them disappeared through the crowd as students gave them a hearty cheer. The crowd became larger as time wore on, as word traveled fast about the "streakers" on campus.
A little while later, another "streaker" made an appearance, then another. Now the crowd was huge; several thousand strong as darkness began to approach. Then, around the corner of one of the class room buildings ran a burly guy, with a bag tied around his head. A few of us were able to recognize him from that huge scar on his belly. It was Gary Bell, slowly streaking through the crowd and waving to everyone he saw. Now, Gary had planned to have a couple of his teammates wait for him in a car, at the end of the street to safely drive him to freedom. The only problem with that plan was, Campus Police had arrived to monitor the crowd and had forced the car to be moved. It was now several blocks away, and had been replaced at the end of the street by a police car. When Gary strolled to the end of the street, he looked around to find his buddies' car, but saw only the Campus Police vehicle. The officers jumped out of their car to arrest this "streaker" and Gary started running in the opposite direction. Stories abound about Gary Bell's nude run from the law that day. Some say he was apprehended after running just a couple of blocks, while others say he ran almost ten miles, before finally stopping and giving up. How far he ran doesn't matter. The fact that he was a "streaker" on campus that day in 1973, was the real story.
I would like to think Gary Bell eventually finished his degree, and went on to be a big success in the world. Because I haven't heard anything about him since I left MTSU in 1975, I'm depending on my MTSU brethren to help me out. "Whatever happened to Gary Bell?"
Contact Randy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 42 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer, author and is also a media concepts teacher at Red Bank High School in Chattanooga. He is currently teaching an "Intro To Sportscasting" class at Red Bank, the only class of its type in Tennessee. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 10 years. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry Davey and Alison Smith). They also have two grandchildren (Coleman and Boone).