Photo courtesy Brandon Smith
Photo by Brandon Smith
Jennifer Bell's goal is to turn great athletes into great men, while allowing them to play the game they love, she says. She is the current Adult Semi-Pro Football team owner and coach of the 601 Vipers, which is affiliated with the Mid-south Elite Football League, and the co-commissioner of the league.
"This is the most humbling job I've had, because I have the responsibility of making a great impact in the city of Jackson, and surrounding areas," she says.
Bell, 38, attended Terry High School and received her bachelor's degree in early childhood education from Mississippi State University in 2002. During college, she started working as an office manager for Westside Auto in Jackson and has held the position ever since.
Her football interest didn't materialize until three years ago, when her son played in high school. Her then-fiance Terry Hawkins Jr. owned a team in the league. So she quickly grew her love for the game. In August 2018, the commissioner, Brian Ledger, asked her to become the co-commissioner.
Bell helps manage the league, ensuring that the teams follow all rules and regulations. She also handles the media and communications department. She served as a former chief executive officer of the Mississippi Legacy Semi Pro Football team for a year.
Bell says one drawback is that the league, which covers Jackson and the surrounding area, is not heavily known for producing NFL players.
"Nobody really knows about these leagues because it's never publicized," she says. "We also have a difficult time finding practice and game facilities."
To remedy this, Bell is looking for ways to increase exposure for the league and the team. She also encourages her players to share videos from games.
In order for a player to be added to the roster, they must agree to give back to the community.
"If my players skip a community service event without good reasoning, instead of making them pay money, I make them run the entire practice," Bell says.
Wives and girlfriends of players in the league also participate in community-service events geared specifically toward women and children. In 2018, the team as a whole donated and delivered more than 299 pounds of food, including 249 meals to families in need and to the Mississippi Food Network.
The league's season begins March 2. For more information, visit midsouthelitefootball.com.