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Standing up at the podium on Friday, Ronnie Bell wore his emotions on his sleeve. The graduate wide receiver beamed when expressing his excitement to get back on the field.

After all, it has been 342 days since he last suited up for the Wolverines — 342 days since a knee injury ended his season before the first game was even finished.

For Bell, the wait has been long enough.

“Man, I’ve been thinking about playing in a game for over a year now,” Bell laughed. “I’m beyond excited. I’m ready to go.”

After watching Michigan’s best season in decades from the sideline, Bell is poised to take his spot back at the top of the crowded wide receiver depth chart. His reintroduction will likely be a major benefit to a Wolverine offense that already has high expectations.

In 2020, Bell led the team in receiving yards and was the number one option. But Bell isn’t just trying to get back to where he was, he wants more.

“Rehabbing every day, focusing on yourself for nine straight months,” Bell said. “I told myself when it all happened that if I didn’t come out on the other end stronger I was doing something wrong… I’m glad that’s how it’s going.”

But it isn’t just talk; Bell can back it up.

Bell has been working to beat his personal record in the L cone drill for years, and recently he finally did it.

For nine long months, Bell was rehabbing, slowly progressing towards his goal of getting back on the field. He watched the spring game from the sidelines and bided his time for this moment.

It was only natural for Bell to be rusty when he stepped out onto the practice field with his teammates for fall camp. He had been running routes for months before, but when he started up with others around him, it was uncomfortable at first.

But there was a moment early on in camp when that changed.

“I don’t know what day it was, but I finally jumped up and made a play on the ball,” Bell said. “… Once that happened it was like the biggest weight lifted off of my shoulders that I think I’ve ever had. Since then I feel like I’ve been back and rolling.”

That weight lifted off of Bell’s shoulders is noticeable. It shows in the way he speaks about playing football again and in what his teammates are seeing him do in practices. Junior defensive back RJ Moten shouted out Bell for having what he thought was the most impressive play thus far in fall camp — a highlight reel catch in the back of the endzone.

It means a lot to the rest of the team to see Bell do things like that after so long on the sideline.

“Seeing that he never hung his head, it made us never hang our heads,” Moten said. “And he’s just been putting in the work and getting rehab done. I think this will be his year.”

It’s obvious that Bell’s enthusiasm for his return is shared by his teammates. They’re all excited to see what he will do come week one. But no matter the result, one thing is for sure:

If Bell is on the field playing, he’s going to enjoy it:

“I’m beyond excited about every single day,” Bell said. “Making plays, it’s fun man. It’s a lot of fun.”