The Cowboys did an excellent job of bringing in talented undrafted free agents like center Alec Lindstrom, wide receiver Dontario Drummond, and linebacker Storey Jackson. However, one has stood out among the rest as the overwhelming fan favorite, and that’s safety Markquese Bell out of Florida A&M.

Bell was one of the Cowboys’ 30 visits and a player that looked like he could be a Day 3 steal in the draft for Dallas. Luckily, the Cowboys snagged him, and he possesses a lot of traits that defensive coordinator Dan Quinn covets much like fifth-round cornerback DaRon Bland.

As is the case with undrafted rookies and late-round picks, Bell will have to show and prove on special teams while he develops, a path that sixth-round pick Devin Harper has embraced. The HBCU standout is of the same mindset as Harper when it comes to how he can contribute to the Cowboys this season.

“I want to contribute on special teams”, Bell said. “That is going to get my foot in the door. I want to learn the playbook and get with some of the older guys that know the system and learn from them to help me get where I want to go.”

Bell was very productive for the Rattlers last season. He logged 95 tackles (6.5 tackles for loss), an interception, two sacks, and five forced fumbles on his way to receiving All-MEAC honors. Coupling that with his 6’2  frame, 36.5-inch vertical, and 4.41 speed, Bell could have easily felt slighted by not being drafted.

That’s not the case with the New Jersey native. Bell realizes that even if he had heard his name called during the draft process he would still have to put in the work to earn a star on his helmet with the Cowboys.

“It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” said Bell. “Getting drafted wouldn’t guarantee me a spot on the team. I still had to go in and work for it. That is what I am here to do.”

The aforementioned Quinn inherited a Cowboys’ defense that was 31st against the run and 28th in points allowed in 2020. Under his tutelage, the Cowboys’ defense led the NFL in turnovers last season (34) and was the best unit on third down.

One of the noticeable changes in the Cowboys’ defense last year was how physical they were and how they swarmed to the ball. Bell is already taken that mentality in as he learns the ropes.

“Every time we meet, he tells us, ‘We are going to hit. If we don’t do anything else, we are going to hit,’” Bell said.

“I can do that. If nothing else, I can do that.”

Bell displayed versatility at Florida A&M by playing down in the box and being able to cover on the back end. Quinn will use that skill set to see where Bell prospers the most with the Cowboys.

“They are just going to move me around and see what I can retain and how I can help the team in any way,” Bell said. “I am all for it. Whatever they need me to do, I will do.”

But what it boils down to for Bell in 2022 is what it always boils down to when it comes to what an NFL player desires most: respect. Bell is the only player from an HBCU (Historically Black College and University) on the team. HBCU players -and the schools- are often overlooked despite producing players such as Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Michael Strahan, Mel Blount, and so many others.

Bell wants to change that. And you can’t blame him.

“I know I am the only guy from an HBCU on this team,” Bell said. “That is attached to me. I want to make people respect HBCU dudes and stop overlooking us and thinking we are lower ranked and lower competition.”

The Cowboys have three good safeties in Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, and Donovan Wilson. Outside of those three, there’s no definitive fourth guy. Bell will compete with 2021 sixth-round pick Israel Mukuamu and another undrafted prospect from last year Tyler Coyle for that roster spot as rookie minicamp begins on Friday.

Feature image via Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat / USA TODAY NETWORK