Bobby Bell: Looking to inspire

6/14/2007 - NFL

Throughout the offseason, we'll catch up with former NFL players and coaches to find out what they have been up to since leaving the game.

Bobby Bell always has been a motivator and a storyteller. He now travels the country doing both.

The Hall of Fame linebacker, who will turn 67 on Sunday, uses his life story to teach individuals how to achieve their dreams.

"A lot of people think I was just a great football player," said Bell, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1963-1974. "But they don't know my whole story."

Two years ago, Bell closed his Kansas City restaurant chain, Bobby Bell Bar-B-Que, to focus on speaking engagements, raising money for the charities of retired NFL players and improving his golf swing.

In his speeches, Bell talks about the importance of dreaming and maintaining the work ethic to achieve those dreams. He has three children and four grandchildren. His son, Bobby Jr., played linebacker for the New York Jets in 1984.

Bell grew up in Shelby, N.C, the son of a cotton worker who didn't graduate from high school. He was an all-star baseball, basketball and football player, and claims he even had the chance to play professionally for the Chicago White Sox.

"Football was my third-best sport," Bell joked.

After only playing six-man football in high school, he earned a football scholarship to Minnesota. It was an entirely new experience for Bell, considering Shelby's population was roughly 8,000, while Minnesota had about 30,000 students. Bell needed to work through college to pay his living expenses.

He wanted to be a quarterback, but his coaches preferred using him on the offensive and defensive line. One of Bell's greatest traits was his ability to be coached. He could learn almost any position on the fly and his superior play was a major reason Minnesota won the 1962 Rose Bowl.

Bell also enjoyed enormous success in the NFL, helping the Chiefs knock off the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. If the New York Jets' victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III made people think the AFL was for real, Kansas City's victory was the clincher. More than anything, Bell has the utmost admiration for his former coach, Hank Stram, who died two years ago.

Stram, known as an innovator, was especially creative when it came to Bell. He realized it was silly to have Bell on the defensive line as a platoon player, so he used him every down at outside linebacker.

"We were really the first team to play the 3-4 defense," Bell said "We didn't need to call timeout when the offense made an audible; we could just change our defensive alignment."

Bell stayed in close touch through the years with Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, who died last December. He enjoys telling his favorite story about Hunt. After he was drafted by the Chiefs, Bell went to New York to be on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson." On the cab ride from the airport to the hotel, Bell had to pay the toll fare of 15 cents because Hunt, a multimillionaire, did not have any money.

When Bell had his 60th birthday party, Hunt paid back the 15 cents.

As for the cab fare? "I paid that, too," Bell said. "He kept joking with me about paying that back."

William Bendetson is an intern for ESPN.com