Bell became Columbia’s all-time leading receiver after catching 1,126 yards and 12 touchdowns; six more make the all-offensive team
Consistent, consistent, consistent.
That’s how coach Brian Allen describes Marquez Bell’s career at Columbia.
“He’s a quiet assassin. He just goes out and gets it done,” Allen said.
Year after year, Bell sliced through defenses. His senior season was no different.
In fact, it was historic.
Bell became the school’s all-time leading receiver this year, catching 58 balls for 1,126 yards and 12 touchdowns. He finished his career with 148 receptions, 2,968 yards and 33 touchdowns.
His record-setting season is why Bell is the Lake City Reporter’s Offensive Player of the Year.
“Going into my senior year that was my goal,” Bell said. “My goal was to make a record at Columbia High School and it happened so I feel pretty good about that.”
Bell’s numbers in 2019 were nearly identical to his junior year when he pulled in 52 balls for 1,044 yards and 13 touchdowns. Those stats were going to be hard to top in his final season in purple and gold, but he made it happen as the team’s No. 1 receiver despite seeing team’s best defensive backs week in and week out.
Now Bell goes down in the record books at Columbia, which came as no surprise to Allen. In his nine years at Columbia, Allen hasn’t seen another receiver quite like Bell.
“I’ve had some good ones but I would have to place him at the top,” Allen said. “When you look at the ones that we’ve had come through, some have had speed, some have had the ability to jump, some have been quick, guys have had good hands and I’ve had possession receivers. I think Marquez just has a little bit of all of it. He probably tracks the ball as well as any kid I’ve been around.
“He’s just a different type of player. I could go on and on about him with his work ethic, his drive, determination. He’s just been on a different level of all the guys that I coached.”
Bell was a big-time player in big-time games. The Tigers won at Madison County this season for the first time in over five decades and Bell played an integral role in the game. After dropping his only pass of the entire year, he bounced back to catch two touchdowns to hand the Cowboys a 32-21 loss, their first at home since Sept. 11, 2015.
“My favorite game I played in was probably Madison just because of the atmosphere. I love a big game,” Bell said.
He always showed up in them too, even when Columbia lost. His best game of the season game in the regular-season finale against North Marion, catching eight passes for 182 yards and four touchdowns despite falling 41-34.
Bell also helped Columbia rise to No. 1 in Class 6A during the season and earn another playoff berth. The Tigers defeated Ponte Vedra 14-7 in the first round before falling to Robert E. Lee 6-3 in overtime one week later.
“Hard work pays off and I’ve never been a kid that never works,” Bell said. “I’m always in the weight room and always pushing myself and my teammates to be better.”
Now Bell will take his talents to the next level. He’s coveted by several colleges, with more than 20 offers under his belt.
Bell verbally committed to South Florida prior to the season but decommitted last month after Charlie Strong was fired as the school’s head coach. But Bell says he’s still considering USF following the hire of Jeff Scott, along with Indiana, Cincinnati and Virginia.
The soon-to-be collegiate receiver took his official visit to Indiana on Dec. 7 and has visits lined up to USF (Jan. 17), Cincinnati (Jan. 24) and Virginia (Jan. 31) before National Signing Day on Feb. 5. Columbia quarterback Jordan Smith and linebacker Le’vontae Camiel are still committed to USF.
Bell’s focus is making the right choice not only for himself but also his son Major, who recently turned one year old. He wants to one day play in the NFL.
“I don’t have everything I want in life right now and I’ve got to work to get that,” Bell said. “I want my son to have everything that he wants and not have to go through what I went through. I’m just trying to work and pay it all off.”
Never done working. Always motivated. Just like when he showed up on Allen’s practice the summer before his freshman year.
“If he stays healthy I absolutely believe he’s a guy that will play on Sundays,” Allen said.
ALL-AREA OFFENSIVE TEAM
Jordan Smith, QB, Columbia
USF commit completed 159/287 passes for 2,665 yards with 27 touchdowns and 8 interceptions to finish as the school’s all-time leading passer. The senior also ran for 98 yards and 5 TDs.
Kylen Callum, RB, Columbia
Led the county with 680 rushing yards and seven touchdowns as the team’s go-to back. The senior also caught eight passes for 87 yards and another score.
Leon Watkins, RB, Fort White
Was the team’s best offensive player, rushing for 508 yards and scoring six touchdowns. His senior season was limited to just five games due to injury.
Lanadrick Bradley, WR, Columbia
Caught 55 passes for 884 yards with six touchdowns, both second on the team. The senior also rushed for 141 yards on 24 carries with four more scores.
Derrick Roberson, WR/LB, Fort White
Two-way player led the team with 14 catches for 286 yards and three touchdowns. Also led the team defensively with six sacks and 10 tackles for loss while finishing second with 68 tackles.
Marvin Farmer, C, Columbia
The county’s top lineman played center and was the QB of the offensive line as a senior for an offense that averaged 365 yards per game.