Vonn Bell knew his choice was going to ruffle some feathers, but in making the biggest decision of his life the Ridgeland High School five-star football recruit did the most basic of things.
He listened to his parents.
Bell ignored the pleas of friends and area fans -- and his own heart -- on national signing day when he chose to continue his football career at Ohio State. The top-50 national recruit chose Urban Meyer's Buckeyes over the program he's always rooted for, Tennessee, and the two-time defending national champion, Alabama.
"It was difficult," said Bell, noting that the Volunteers were his second choice. "I had to really block out everything. My parents kept telling me that this is your decision, you're the one that has to go play, so don't let other people make it for you."
The edge for the Buckeyes, according to Bell, was twofold. New Tennessee coach Butch Jones made an impressive late push, but Meyer and Bell's personal recruiter, Everett Withers, already had a deep relationship with the player and his family.
Secondly, Bell has a plan and admitted Wednesday that a major component of it is to have annual shots at winning a national championship. He just didn't believe the Vols can get to that level so quickly.
"Coach Jones is still trying to find those guys to bring Tennessee back to where it was, and for me I don't have the time to wait," Bell said. "Those two years will be long. I hope to have the decision in two years whether to go the [NFL] draft or come back and I want to be an All-American and all that, and I think Ohio State is the best place for me to accomplish those things."
Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis, another key figure in Bell's recruitment, echoed his star's comments on the decision and saw firsthand how tough a call it was.
"From day one, they were relentless on building that relationship with him," Mariakis said of the Buckeyes coaches. "They were persistent. Every chance they had to call, they called. I don't know if there is anybody better in recruiting than Coach Withers. He built a great relationship with Vonn and genuinely loved the kid.
"Coach Jones and the Tennessee staff made it real tough. It was tough for Vonn to not go to the longtime school he has always cheered for, but in the end he made an educated choice, not an emotional choice. There were still just too many questions at Tennessee, while Ohio State already has all the pieces in place."
Bell received more than 20 major college offers following a breakout junior season in which he was the Times Free Press defensive player of the year. He backed that up in 2012 with 89 solo tackles, 53 assists, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a team-leading 13 big hits. Offensively, the wingback had 1,006 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns to go with 517 yards receiving (36.9 yards per catch) and six touchdowns.
Bell said he has not been promised a starting job in Columbus, but he believes he will be on the field early this fall.
"The two guys in front of me are seniors, so hopefully I can move up and start as a sophomore," he said. "They've told me I can earn a spot, but I know I have to work for it. I don't want anything given to me."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...