Westbrook grad earns spot on Auburn football team


By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

John Reese Bellew loves a challenge and is not averse to taking a risk.
Back in January, the 2020 Westbrook Christian graduate was one of 42 potential walk-ons vying for a spot on the Auburn University football roster.
After three weeks of workouts, 33 hopefuls were told their services were no longer required.
Bellew was not among them.
Three months later, a stretch that which included a brutal 14-day boot camp-style tryout, four of the remaining nine candidates fell by the wayside.
Bellew was not among them.
After he and the four other remaining players participated in the annual A-Day spring game, three were dismissed.
Bellew was not among them.
The rising AU sophomore, who had declined a full scholarship to Samford University for the chance to play football on The Plains, was told by AU head coach Brian Harsin in May that he made the team.
“I’m a man of God, and I put my trust in the Lord,” said Bellew. “It’s just an incredible feeling knowing that just me and one other guy survived. It was a big gamble after I turned down Samford, but I really wanted to see if I could play [at Auburn]. I felt like I was on top of the world when I found out I made it. I’ll have a helmet and a jersey and a locker at Auburn, and I’m humbled to be a part of it. This is definitely the biggest accomplishment of my life.”
Bellew’s coach at the running back position is 2000 Eto-wah High graduate and former AU and NFL running back Carnell Williams. Bellew’s dad Ronny played linebacker at Auburn in the early 1980s, where he was a teammate of Bo Jackson.
“It’s amazing that I’ll carry on the family’s name at Auburn,” he said. “It makes me happy and I know it makes everyone else in my family happy. I’m also honored to play for Coach Williams.”
Auburn opens fall camp in about three weeks, and Be-llew realizes that he won’t have many opportunities to return home to Gadsden very often over the next several months.
“That’s one of the things that me and my mother talked about when we saw just how full my schedule would be, that I’d have to make sacrifices,” he said. “Which is fine, because this is what we’d prayed for.”
When asked how different the level of football is from high school to Division I college, Bellew noted that is it more mental then physical.
“Besides the level of competition, they really make it tough during conditioning drills, and you just have to push through it. They make us run stadiums, and it makes you ask yourself if you really want to do this. But’s that when you have to dial it in and realize that this is Auburn football and this is the SEC, and that the [University of] Alabama players are doing the same thing right now. I had to learn how to use that to motivate me, and it’s helped me out tremendously. I’ve gotten to the point now where I’m ready for the day instead of dreading it.”
Bellew, who recently was named to the First-Year SEC Academic Honor Roll as an Exercise Science major, spoke about the challenges of keeping abreast academically while participating in a DI sport.
“When we started spring training, I was [at the football practice facility] from 2 to about 7:30. I also had classes before that, so I was always trying to find time to do homework or find a five-minute gap to eat lunch before I had class to go to practice, or I had to make sure that I ate breakfast so I’d feel good during the day.”
Bellew credits his mom Lana for helping to keep his priorities straight academically.

“She really stays on top of me and make sure I’m getting my work done and getting my assignments in on time. But we also have advisors and tutors at Auburn that help us out and give us really good resources.”
Bellew points to former Westbrook football coach Brian Mintz and current coach Drew Noles as having an impact on him as a player and a person. As a senior, Bellew helped the 2019 Warriors win the program’s first postseason game since 2010 with a 25-22 victory over Aliceville in the first round of the Class 2A state football playoffs. Following the season, Bellew was named to the All-Messenger Football first team after finishing with 47 tackles and five sacks at safety.
“Coach Mintz helped me become a better Christian,” he said. “He was big on FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and taught us to be leaders both on and off the field. He cared about us personally and treated us like family. Coach Noles was the same way in being like a family. He did things like open up the fieldhouse at night to let me take an ice bath. He was always there for us if we needed him.”




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