Alumni, former athletes participate in annual festivities

Latasha Webb

Bobby Bell, one of the University’s first black athletes, returned to campus this Homecoming weekend to participate in alumni festivities.

Before graduating in 1963, Bell lead the Gophers football team to two Rose Bowls, was a two-time All-American and won the Outland Trophy for being the best college lineman in the country. He is a legend among alumni who attended a game where he broke three ribs and continued to play because his father traveled hundreds of miles to see him play.

After graduation, Bell played for the Kansas City Chiefs and brought them to two Super Bowls. He was inducted to the NFL hall of fame in 1983.

“I was just happy to be here,” Bell said of his time at the University, during an interview by Ray Christensen at Saturday’s pre-game pancake breakfast for alumni.

Being one of the first blacks at the University was not easy.

“It was like living in a glass house. Everybody watched us,” Bell said. “We had to prove something.”

What athletes today are missing is the gratitude Bell and his teammates felt for the opportunity to go to college, he said.

“I was not only playing for my family who didn’t get to go to
college, but my friends back at home,” Bell said. “We knew we had to walk a straight line. You’ve got to have a dignity about you.”

Approximately 200 alumni listened to Bell as they enjoyed the pancake breakfast Saturday morning before heading to the parade and the Gophers game against Michigan State.

Other attendees included hall of fame diver Laurie Nelson and Olympic silver medalist Brandon Paulson.

Recent graduates who have yet to leave their own indelible etch on University history attended a separate alumni function Friday evening.

The Homecoming Happy Hour Huddle was planned for alumni who graduated between 1990 and 2001.

“We want to be able to bring together recent graduates to network and stay connected to the University,” said Deanna Hamilton, alumni special events director.

Approximately 50 recent graduates gathered at the Gateway alumni center to network, reunite and enjoy the live music of the jazz band Pharoah Quartet.

“We don’t have a lot of money to donate, but we have new and fun ideas,” said 1994 graduate Paul Meierant, a senior analyst at Marshall Field’s.

Bell had some advice for the recent graduates as well as for those still in school.

“As long as you can dream, it will come true,” he said.

 

Latasha Webb welcomes comments at [email protected]