When the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the field Monday night inside Raymond James Stadium, a trip to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs will be on the line.
Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady will be making his 48th start in the postseason. Staring back at him well beyond the line of scrimmage will be back judge Grantis Bell, who will be officiating just his second playoff game.
The 56-year-old Bell is in his third year as an NFL official. He officiated 15 games during his rookie season in 2020. He then did 17 more, including making his postseason debut, in 2021. That game also featured the Cowboys.
West Virginia football fans may remember Bell as a wide receiver during the mid-to-late 1980s. Redshirting as a freshman in 1984, Bell factored into the stat book in at least eight games in each of the next four seasons.
The wideout had his best season during the program’s undefeated run to the Fiesta Bowl in 1988. During that season, Bell caught a career-best 15 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns. He recorded one of those touchdown-scoring catches against Notre Dame in the third quarter of the national title game.
Bell made a total of 46 receptions for 819 yards and six touchdowns in his collegiate career. He rushed the ball occasionally and was featured as a punt and kick returner on special teams.
After seemingly a few years away from the game at a high level, Bell played in the second and final season of the World League of American Football, which was the 1991-1992 predecessor of NFL Europe. He then played four seasons in the Arena Football League.
Kickoff between Dallas and Tampa Bay is set for 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN and ABC.