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BABCOCK: Huskers' Bell, Wildcats' Colter share childhood friendship
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BABCOCK: Huskers' Bell, Wildcats' Colter share childhood friendship

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LINCOLN — Yes, Kenny Bell and Kain Colter are best friends, even though Bell was reluctant to say it exactly that way following practice earlier this week.

“I feel weird being a grown man, saying another man’s my best friend,” he said.

Nebraska’s sophomore wide receiver punctuated his words with a laugh. Weird phrasing aside, Colter is “definitely one of my best friends from back home, definitely,” he said.

Back home is Boulder, Colo., of course. And that’s a story in itself. Bell could talk all day about Boulder and the state of Colorado. “I love seeing guys from Colorado do well,” said Bell.

“I mean there’s only a handful of us.”

Danny Spond, for instance, is an outside linebacker at Notre Dame. “I played against Danny in high school, great guy, and to see him doing well is awesome,” Bell said.

Spond is from Littleton, Colo.

Colter, who played his final two years at Cherry Creek High School in Denver, is the focus here, however, not Spond, because Bell and Colter grew up together and because Colter plays for Northwestern, where the Huskers play on Saturday afternoon.

To some extent, this is a replay. The Colter connection came up a year ago, after he rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another in Northwestern’s 28-25 upset of the Huskers at Memorial Stadium. So it stands to reason his friendship with Bell would be a popular storyline this week.

He and Colter, who again is playing wide receiver as well as quarterback for the Wildcats, grew up in the same Boulder neighborhoods, first meeting “probably” at soccer practice when they were 6 years old. “We started playing soccer together,” said Bell.

The same with baseball. “You name it, we did it together,” he said. They also “started playing tackle football together, went to the same middle school and from there, we were always together.”

Until high school they were, anyway. Originally, they both planned to attend Boulder High, where Colter’s father, Spencer, was an assistant football coach.

Because of the possibility that Spencer Colter would coach elsewhere, however, Bell decided to attend Boulder’s Fairview High instead. As it turned out, Boulder High hired Spencer Colter as its head football coach, but Bell was already set at Fairview. The friends were no longer together.

Kain Colter attended Boulder High for two years then transferred to Cherry Creek after his father was fired as coach “for conduct issues related to his temper,” according to the Boulder Daily Camera.

The firing led to a walk-out by a fourth of the school’s students, the Camera reported.

In any case, Bell and Kain Colter went through high school as rivals, figuring they would be teammates again in college. Originally, Colter committed to Stanford, but the Cardinal backed off “when he tore his labrum his senior year,” said Bell. “We both had shoulder injuries our senior years.”

When the Huskers offered him a scholarship, Bell said, “I was like, ‘Man, we’ve got to go to Nebraska together,’ And he was pumped . . . we wanted to go to school so bad together.”

But Nebraska didn’t offer Colter a scholarship. Brion Carnes was the only quarterback in the 2010 recruiting class — though Bronson Marsh is now a quarterback, while Carnes has moved to wide receiver. “If he (Colter) would have got offered here, I’m pretty positive we’d be playing together,” said Bell.

They aren’t, however, and containing Colter will be a defensive concern. He’s Northwestern’s second-leading rusher, averaging nearly 6 yards per carry with eight touchdowns, and sixth-leading receiver. And he has completed 70 percent of his passes, with two touchdowns.

Trevor Siemian, the Wildcats’ other quarterback, is primarily a passer.

“You just don’t see it a lot,” Husker coach Bo Pelini said of the Wildcats’ two-quarterback system. “I’m not exactly sure why they do it. They must obviously like both quarterbacks.

“It’s a combination of liking what Kain Colter brings at the wide receiver position besides what he does at the quarterback position. I don’t know all the reasons behind it. It doesn’t change a lot what they do offensively . . . It’s not like they have completely different packages.”

Whatever Colter does, Bell wants to see his best friend do it well.

“I want Kain to have the best game he can,” said Bell. “But obviously, I want us to win. I want nothing but the best for him. I would never wish anything negative.

“I would love to see him have a great game.”

Again, as long as it’s in defeat.

Mike Babcock covers Nebraska football and writes for Hail Varsity.

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