Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Former UA Great Theo Bell Dies
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: June 21, 2006
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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(Special thanks to the Tampa Tribune. That story here)

TAMPA, Fla.-- Former Arizona Wildcat and Tampa Bay Bucs wide receiver Theopolis "T" Bell died Wednesday morning at St. Joseph's Hospital here after a long battle with kidney disease and scleroderma. Bell, 52, had been hospitalized for most of the past two months and has battled the illnesses for more than a year.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

In 2000, doctors diagnosed Bell with polycystic kidney disease, where cysts overtake the kidneys and eventually destroy them. Later, Bell was also diagnosed with scleroderma, a disorder that causes a hardening of the skin. His wife, Joan Bell, said the cause of death was scleroderma.

Bell played at Arizona from 1972-75 and earned first-team All-America honors by the NEA his senior year. Preceeding that season he was one of the Cats' first Playboy All-Americans and twice earned first-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors.

He wore jersey No. 18 for Arizona and was the chief outside receiving threat for some prolific UA squads. His first year, under coach Bob Weber, the Cats were 4-7, and then under Jim Young posted records of 8-3 in 1973 and twin marks of 9-2 his junior and senior seasons -- the two best records before UA's Pac-10 era.

Bell remains Arizona's No. 3 career receiving leader in two categories with 153 receptions for 2,509 yards, and is the career receiving touchdowns leader with 30. His 217 yards on seven catches against New Mexico in 1975 is the fifth-best single-game yardage total in UA history. He is No. 3 all time in UA all-purpose yards with 4,943, in part because of his proficiency as a kick returner -- the No. 1 UA career mark with 1,538 yards.

He was elected to the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame when first eligible in 1979, three years after the formation of the Hall. He was widely thought by those who saw him play as one of Arizona's all-time big-play threats.

He ranked third nationally in kickoff returns his senior year at 25.1 yards per return, and fifth in 1972 at 24.9. He was seventh nationally in receiving in 1974 with 53 catches for 700 yards.

Bell collected two Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1979 and 1980. He was drafted out of Arizona by the Steelers in the fourth round in 1976.

He joined the Bucs as a free agent in 1981. In five seasons for Tampa Bay, he started 13 games and caught 95 passes for 1,470 yards and four touchdowns. His final season with the Bucs in 1985 was also his last in the league.

After his football playing days were over, Bell became involved in a program that originated at the University of South Florida. The program teaches the value of education, targeting middle school kids and following them through high school graduation. The program is called GEARUP - Gaining Early Awareness Readiness of Undergraduate Programs.

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