Bobby Bell cruised the streets of Pasadena, Calif., Monday morning in the Rose Parade 55 years after leading the Gophers football team to back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances.
The former Gophers defensive star and two-time All-American was inducted into the Rose Bowl Game Hall of Fame on New Year’s Day with Southern California’s Ricky Ervins, former Duke player and Oregon State coach Tommy Prothro (deceased), and sportswriter Art Spander. Bell, Ervins and Spander participated in Monday’s parade and Bell’s wife Pamela was interviewed during the ABC broadcast.
“He cried, he was just so touched,” Pamela said about Bell’s reaction to learning he would be inducted this year.
“Bobby coming from a small town in North Carolina, this was the first game that his mom and dad were able to see him play in college. And to be at the biggest stadium in the biggest game, it was so exciting for him. And then to come back 56 years later [after the Gophers first Rose Bowl game] to then be inducted to the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame, just meant the world to him.”
The Gophers honored Bell for this honor at TCF Bank Stadium during the Nov. 19 victory against Northwestern. The Gophers lost to Washington 17-7 in the 1961 Rose Bowl, then beat UCLA 21-3 in the 1962 Rose Bowl.
Bell also won a national championship with the Gophers in 1960, won the Outland Trophy in 1962 as the nation’s best interior lineman, earned All-America honors in 1961 and 1962, played 12 seasons in the AFL/NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs, won a Super Bowl ring by defeating the Vikings in 1970, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983. His No. 78 jersey is retired by the Gophers and Chiefs.
In 2015, Bell fulfilled a promise he made to his father by earning his degree from the University of Minnesota at age 74.
““What brought him to our attention was he made a promise to his father early on when he went to college that ‘Dad, I’ll get my degree,’” said Football Committee Chairman Mike Matthiessen. “He went back and graduated in 2015. That’s a story in and of itself.”