FRISCO, Texas — With the news breaking on Tuesday that veteran linebacker Leighton Vander Esch would miss the rest of the season with his neck injury that he suffered against San Francisco, all eyes turned to Markquese Bell.
The second-year converted safety has filled in on the second level opposite of Damone Clark since Vander Esch's injury and has performed well despite starting the season in the third level of the defense. His calm-mannered and work-driven personality has allowed for him to take a significant jump in his second season to now fill a role that will be crucial towards the defense's success the rest of the way.
"I was nervous coming in last year not knowing where I'd fit in and how everything would play out," Bell said. "I gotta trust it and put my faith in God that he put me on this path for a reason. I'm blessed to be in this position I'm in right now."
Despite not having Vander Esch on the field alongside him, Bell has still been able to catch wisdom from him on the sideline during games as he continues his transition to the linebacker position.
"He's on the sideline with us now," he said. "He's like another coach. He's definitely helping me find my way as a linebacker. He's a great guy. Leighton is a great mentor, a great leader to this team."
Playing opposite of fellow second-year defender Damone Clark, Bell has been able to form a bond with his new partner-in-crime as they look to navigate the linebacker position's success going forward.
"That's my guy," Bell said. "Me and Damone came in together last year. We're both learning. We're teaching each other things. I was a safety so I'm telling him things from the backend perspective and he can tell me what the front is doing. We're giving each other game to help us grow."
"He's definitely more confident and you can see it every game. I see him go out there and play fast and it makes me want to play fast. It's a competition. We're in the meeting rooms cracking jokes with each other but we want each other as best as we can. I feel like that competition makes us want to be great."
The pressure of stepping into a big role hasn't been there for Bell, as he's been able to use his special teams experience from year one to build confidence on the field while playing alongside a good friend in Clark in year two to make things familiar this time around.
"You're gonna make mistakes out there," he said. "As long as you play fast, trust your instincts and put faith in the ability that God has given you, you can't go wrong."