Joique Bell #35 of the Detroit Lions plays against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on September 23, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
When Joique Bell steps onto Ford Field, he feels at home.
Bell, Detroit's second leading rusher behind Reggie Bush, always imagined what it would be like to play for the Lions, and now he's living that dream.
He grew up in southwest Michigan in Benton Harbor, a city with "absolutely nothing there," he said, that struggled economically.
"You didn't have anything except for the love around you," he said.
Bell worked hard to develop his football skills as he grew older and eventually got a scholarship to play for Wayne State in Detroit, about a three-hour drive east of his hometown. The summer before his freshman year he needed to make some money, so he became a security guard for the Lions during training camp.
Having never been around professional athletes before, Bell enjoyed watching practice and seeing kids get players' autographs. He'd even come in and be a spectator on his days off.
"I'd stand in the back of the end zone watching, just thinking, 'I'm going to be here one day,'" Bell said.
Bell continued to be a training camp security guard every summer even when he went to college and had his own football practices to attend. He'd work nights for the Lions with a 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift, then wake up early for Wayne State practice, go to another security job on campus, and then back to training camp. He only worked during the summers, before classes started.
Money was tight. One particular day Bell didn't have enough cash for gas. He contemplated not even going to work because he didn't think he would be able to make it back home. But that night he was working security at the team hotel when defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, now with the Giants, didn't want to be late for curfew and asked Bell if he could grab him some food at the cafeteria.
Bell obliged and brought Rogers room service. Before he left, Rogers' roommate told him to give Bell "a little something." So he gave him $50. Enough money for gas.
Bell's hectic schedule lasted through his junior year of college until he decided he needed to focus more on school and his own football team as a senior.
After graduating in 2010, Bell jumped around several practice squads from the Bills to the Eagles to the Colts, then back to the Eagles, and then to the Saints - all in his rookie season. Once he got to the Saints, he found a little stability. He spent 90% of 2011 in New Orleans before getting hurt and being traded - back home to Detroit.
"I always wanted to play for the Lions," he said. "When I was in college and just growing up in Michigan, there's a pride here and knowing the Lions have never won a Super Bowl and wanting to be a part of it when we win that first one. I want to bring that pride here."
Being shipped from team to team takes a toll, but Bell never thought about throwing in the towel.
"I've always thought that if I can make it there (to the NFL), I will never stop working," he said. "I always told myself if I ever had the opportunity to make it to the Lions, I'll never stop working hard. I'll work even harder. And that's what I've been doing."
It is indeed. In his first full season with the Lions in 2012, Bell had 82 carries.
"It wasn't a lot, but it gave me a chance to showcase my talents," he said.
This season he's being utilized more alongside Bush. Detroit's playoff chances are bleak, but with two games remaining, Bell has rushed 138 times for 528 yards and has the chance to double his snaps in just one year. He's also the team's fourth-leading receiver with 39 catches for 459 yards.
"I'm not leaving Detroit," he said. "At least that's my mindset."