Dorian Bell's words were careful and spoken softy, but his message came across loud and clear.
"I'm coming this year," said Bell, a redshirt junior linebacker at Duquesne. "I'm going hard. I feel like I'm the fastest and strongest that I've ever been. I'm sending a message if people are doubting me and see me working at a 7-/11 store or getting into trouble. I'm going to succeed. I'm still chasing my dream."
He added after a pause, "You know, the NFL. People from Division III schools are playing in the NFL. If I work hard and play hard it will show. I'm at my happiest and in the best shape of my life."
This will be Bell's first full season with the Dukes, who return a solid nucleus from a 9-2 team that was co-champion of the Northeast Conference in 2011. They were picked to finish second in a preseason poll of the league's nine coaches.
"I feel like we'll be way better than last year," said Bell, who grew up in Monroeville and graduated from Gateway High School. "We're all straight focused."
The strength of Duquesne's defense, which was the stingiest in the NEC last season, will be the four linebackers with Bell starting on the outside. He has added 15 pounds and packs 235 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame.
Bell was a backup last season when he sat out the first four games after being reinstated by the NCAA, which had declared him ineligible for violation of an NCAA regulation that occurred while he was at Ohio State.
He spent two years at Ohio State, where he was redshirted as a freshman and then played in eight games the next season as a redshirt freshman.
Bell said he wasn't sure what to expect at Duquesne, which is a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly called Division 1-AA).
"It's not D-II," he said. "I felt the competition would be OK. But I also thought it might be really bad. It was way more athletic than I thought. The players are way better than I thought."
Coming out of high school, where he was a prized recruit and the Post-Gazette Player of the Year in 2008 as a senior, Bell was looking for big things at a big-time Ohio State program. But things didn't work out for Bell, who transferred to Duquesne.
"I have no regrets at all," he said of his time at Ohio State. "I can't say anything about it [why I left]. But who wouldn't miss playing in front of 100,000 people.
"I was just happy to be somewhere last year, just to play football again. It was tough to come in and just step right into playing.
"You're not in the same shape and game speed is way different than practice. I just wanted to see how the team was and to see how I could fit.
"I'm approaching this season much differently. I know my assignments better and I'm getting to the ball faster and making more plays. I'm a way better player. I pay more attention to detail.
"Every year I'm trying to get better every second and every possession. I'm going hard."
Then he smiled.
That said it all.duquesnesports - sportscollegedistrict