Harper Bell has been known for being a standout at Pete Rich Stadium in the spring for Pell City High School’s girls soccer team, but the senior wanted to add the title of football player to her already-impressive resume.
Bell decided to join the Panthers football team in late July after earning the AHSAA North-South all-star game MVP honor in soccer.
Bell grew up watching football with her dad every Saturday, so when the chance of being the Panthers’ first female kicker in school history presented itself, she didn’t hesitate to take it.
“Ever since I was a kid, we’ve always watched Alabama play on Saturdays,” Bell said. “When they presented me this opportunity to come out and kick for the football team, I had to do it because it has been a really big part of my life. Being able to take part in it meant a lot.”
Bell became the first female kicker to score a point in a game two weeks ago when Pell City played Huffman in a 34-13 loss. After a Pell City touchdown, Bell’s number was called and she trotted on the field and proceeded to send the point after attempt through the uprights.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “Coming into this new sport and being able to make a difference in a big program really means a lot.”
Pell City head coach Wayne Lee said having Bell on the team has been a great experience. The Panthers' second-year head coach said Bell is liked by her teammates.
“She is a super person,” Lee said. “She more wants to stay away from them. She comes over here and she stays in the indoor (facility) most of the time. We have to make her when we are getting ready for a game to come over here with us.
“She does not want to be a distraction by any stretch of the imagination. That’s her biggest fear (is) that she is a distraction. I think all the kids have bought in and they would say that she is a part of us.”
Bell said her teammates have been very supportive of her throughout the season.
“They have been great,” she said. “They take the time to check if I am all good because I can be hard on myself sometimes, especially with having played soccer for 14 years. I know what I have to do there and with football, I am iffy sometimes. They come over and make sure I am not beating myself up too bad. I really appreciate that.”
Bell has had a successful soccer career at Pell City as she made the Class all-state team last season. As a sophomore, she played a vital role in helping the Lady Panthers make it to the Class 6A Final Four in Huntsville. But the big games she played in soccer doesn’t compare to what she experiences every Friday night.
“Football is a lot bigger,” she said. “It is a bigger scale; it is a lot more moving parts in it. The whole community is more involved in football than any other sport, so that was a lot to get used to, especially with the number of people that turn out to the games.
“It is a lot different when you are on the sideline than it is when you are in the stands. You have to really get yourself there mentally so that you can play your best game and not be distracted by the insane amount of people versus soccer where you have 30.”
Bell hopes when girls see her on the football field that will make them want to follow in her footsteps.
“I think I inspired some girls that might want to try out for football,” she said. “I really want them to do that because I have had a great experience here. I have learned a lot.
“Being in a different atmosphere than I am used to has really improved me as a person and it has prepared (me) for college. I had to come into this huge group of 80 guys that I didn’t know anything about. I learned to work with them and became friends with them.”