A capacity crowd, all with heavy hearts, filled Bettersworth Auditorium in Lee Hall on the Mississippi State campus to celebrate the life of Nick Bell.
As MSU head coach Dan Mullen, who was nearly brought to tears several times during his short speech, said Thursday night the memorial service for the former Bulldogs football player was to show the love his family, friends and community felt for the 20-year-old tragically taken due to cancer Tuesday afternoon.
“I know this week has been one of the most difficult I’ve ever been through and I can’t imagine how can’t imagine the emotions his
family, the emotions this put you through,” Mullen said. “There’s no right or wrong way to feel or think. The strongest emotion is love.”
Bell, 20, died at University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical Center at 3:35 p.m. Tuesday after undergoing emergency surgery when a form of skin cancer had metastasized through his body.
In a touching part of Mullen’s speech, the second-year head coach mentioning the rainy weather on Tuesday as Mother Nature grieving along with everybody in the Starkville area but also referenced how the sun shined Thursday morning before everyone arrived for Bell’s memorial service.
“I’ve haven’t lived in Starkville all my life but I promise you I haven’t seen two grayer days – two sadder days,” Mullen said. “As the sun shined upon us today we knew we’re here to celebrate Nick’s life.”
Mullen’s wife Megan read a prepared speech directed at Nick’s mother, Linda, thanking her for allowing Nick to come through their lives.
“It was a blessing to each of us the moment he stepped foot in our lives,” Megan Mullen said.
“It didn’t just happen recently, it happened immediately.”
After Megan Mullen’s speech, a video tribute was played that showed video clips of Bell’s football career at MSU joined by still photos provided by the Bell family with Sarah McLachlan’s song “I Will Remember You” in the background.
While the memorial service was going on, Georgia Tech’s football team was on the field wearing a Mississippi State decal on its helmet as faced Virginia Tech in a Thursday night college football game.
Among other notable figures in attendance were Bell’s mother and family, MSU President Mark Keenum and university officials, Athletic Director Scott Stricklin, Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive and members of the Bulldog football team.
A pair of Bell’s teammates and college roommates spoke individually in the middle of the ceremony as seniors Kendrick Cook and Charles Mitchell took the stage before Bell’s Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers joined in a closing song.
Cook led the crowd in a standing ovation during his speech.
“We all now see Nick’s life on Earth was to show us – we don’t have long,” Cook said. “Our time and God’s time aren’t the same. The challenge is (if) you have a dream, go get it.”
Thursday’s memorial service — entitled “A Celebration of Life” — began and ended with Mississippi State’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes director Bill Buckley leading the audience in prayer.
Bell’s funeral, which will be also be open to the public, will be held Saturday at noon at the Faith Chapel in Birmingham with a visitation on Friday from 1 to 6 p.m. at Roberts Funeral Home.
The SEC has asked its television network partners at CBS and ESPN to produce an on-air tribute to Bell during their respective broadcasts of SEC games Saturday.
Four SEC games will air Saturday on CBS and the ESPN family of networks.
One game is scheduled for broadcast on the SEC Network, a regional broadcast.
According to an SEC spokesman, Alabama will also observe a moment of silence prior to its kickoff against State on Nov. 13.
Mississippi State Athletic Department has established a memorial fund for the Bell family through the Bulldog Club. Details of the fund are available online at http://www.mstateathletics.com  and donations can be made by calling 325-3074.
The department will also deliver messages and cards sent to the family.
The MSU Athletic Department mailing address is PO Box 5308, Mississippi State, MS, 39762.