American Football Database
For other people with of the same name, see Ricky Bell (disambiguation).
Ricky Bell
No. 42     
Running back
Personal information
Date of birth: (1955-04-08)April 8, 1955
Place of birth: Houston, Texas
Date of death: November 28, 1984(1984-11-28) (aged 29)
Place of death: Los Angeles, California
Career information
College: University of Southern California
NFL Draft: 1977 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1
Debuted in 1977 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last played in 1982 for the San Diego Chargers
Career history
Career highlights and awards
  • N/A
Rushing Yards     3,063
Average     3.7
Touchdowns     16
Stats at
College Football Hall of Fame

Ricky Lynn Bell (April 8, 1955 – November 28, 1984) was an American professional football player who was a running back for the University of Southern California in college, and professionally for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League. Bell was a star for the Southern California Trojans, gaining 1,875 yards rushing in one season.

College career

Bell first attracted notice during his sophomore season at U.S.C. in 1974 as a great blocker and between-the-tackles runner, sharing the position of fullback with David Farmer for the 10 - 1 - 1 National Championship Trojans team that defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl by the score of 18 - 17 on January 1, 1975.

In 1975, Bell led the Trojans to a 7 - 0 start to their season. Then, the lack of their passing game to balance the offense, led to the team's stumbling to an 8 - 4 overall record, but capped with a victory over Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl. During this season, Bell led the nation in rushing, gaining 1,875 yards, as he finished third in the voting for the Heisman Trophy.

Then in 1976, Bell led the Trojans team to an 11 - 1 record, crowned by its victory over the University of Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl. Despite suffering nagging injuries that limited his playing time, Bell set the USC single-game rushing record of 347 yards against the Washington State University team, and he finished in second place for the Heisman Trophy, behind Tony Dorsett of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers.

Bell was voted the player of the year in the Pacific 8 conference [Pac-8]in 1976. He was also awarded the 1976 W.J. Voit Memorial Trophy as the outstanding football player on the Pacific Coast.

NFL career

Bell was the first overall draft choice in the 1977 NFL Draft, selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bell signed a five-year contract for a reported $1.2 million. It was by far the richest contract ever signed by an NFL rookie.[1][2][3][4] This draft choice was somewhat controversial because Tony Dorsett was being projected as an arguably better back than Bell. Bell's selection was not a surprise, however, because Tampa Bay was coached by John McKay, Bell's former head coach at U.S.C. After several difficult seasons, in 1979, Bell enjoyed his finest season, rushing for 1,263 yards and leading the Buccaneers to the championship of the NFC Central Division. He led the Buccaneers to their first playoff win in franchise history that season by rushing for 142 yards on 38 carries scoring two touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles. The team fell one game short of a trip to Super Bowl XIV, ending their season by losing to the Los Angeles Rams for the NFC championship.


Bell died in 1984 of heart failure caused by the disease of dermatomyositis. Mario Van Peebles portrayed the player in the made-for-television movie, A Triumph of the Heart: The Ricky Bell Story, which was based on the life of Ricky Bell. Bell's remains were interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.



  1. Joe Marshall, "This Agent's No Secret," Sports Illustrated, May 16, 1977.
  2. Sue Ellen Jares, "The Key to Pro Football Success: Good Legs, Strong Body and a Contract Negotiated by Mike Trope," People Magazine, June 27, 1977.
  3. Patrick Zier, "Ricky Bell: "It Can't Get Worse"," Lakeland Ledger, May 4, 1977.
  4. Greg Hansen, "Bucs Get Ricky Bell ... Dallas Gets Tony Dorsett"," The Evening Independent, May 3, 1977.

External links