It certainly influences my opinion of Bret Bielema. Honestly, I didn't know he had that in him - and shows how sound bites and my own biases based on being a Mizzou and Wisconsin fan (wife went to Madison) skewed my judgement. Good for Bielema, it's good to maintain some humanity and caring even in the heat of intense competition that is NCAA football.
It was a little more than three years ago when Mississippi State defensive end Nick Bell passed away from brain cancer. The 20-year-old declined quickly after being diagnosed with the disease in September. At the time, MSU’s Dan Mullen had this to say:
“Nick was a son and he was a brother to everyone in this football family. I know he’s looking down on us right now and I’m sure he’s already been picked for a team up in heaven to play football again — the game that he loved.”
Mullen’s team lost its next two games to Alabama and Arkansas (by seven), but rebounded to beat Ole Miss and then routed Michigan in the Gator Bowl.
Mullen — whose team faces Arkansas on Saturday — remembers that new Razorback coach Bret Bielema reached out to him after Bell’s death. At the time, Bielema was at Wisconsin and the two men had never met.
“You are surprised because you get a lot of calls and you have things that go on. You get a call from Nick (Saban) and Les (Miles), but they’re in the conference wishing you the best. To take time out and write a full letter out and send another thing with it, was a really neat deal… He probably doesn’t remember writing the letter but it did have an impact on me and that just shows the character he has as a coach and how all of us try to live our lives.”
Bielema does remember the letter he wrote. Asked about it this week he said:
“I think as a coach you just always look for people that you admire the way they do things. I remember watching (the Bell story on Television) and I’m like, ‘Man, that’s pretty impressive,’ and I just reached out to him.”
It’s good to hear these kinds of stories about SEC coaches, no?