Kelvin Bell, a former member of the University of Iowa football team, is in his fourth season as Iowa’s defensive line coach. Bell was named recruiting coordinator and defensive assistant coach in February, 2016. Bell also held the position of director of on-campus recruiting for two years (2014-15). He served as a graduate assistant coach for two years (2012-13), assisting with special teams.
Throughout his coaching stint at Iowa, Bell has been involved in all aspects of prospect identification, working with the coaching staff in off-campus recruiting efforts, and coordinated all aspects of on-campus recruiting activities.
The Hawkeyes won 10 games in 2021, winning the Big Ten’s West Division title and advancing to the conference championship game. Iowa concluded the season with an appearance in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl and was ranked 23rd in the nation in the final national rankings. Iowa’s streak of nine straight bowl invitations matches the longest in school history and the Hawkeyes have been in the Top 25 final rankings four straight seasons.
Iowa opened the 2021 season with six straight wins and closed the regular season with four straight victories to earn the West Division title and a berth in the league championship game for the second time since 2015. Iowa has been in the final national rankings in each of the past four seasons and has earned 19 conference wins in the past three seasons, Iowa’s highest three-year conference win total since 2002-04.
Iowa’s defense set a school record and led the nation with 25 interceptions in 2021. The defense ranked among national leaders in takeaways (30, third), defensive touchdowns scored (four, seventh), pass efficiency defense (110.5, sixth), turnover margin (0.8, 11th), rushing defense (114.4, 13th), scoring defense (19.2, 13th), and total defense (328.8, 18th).
Senior end Zach VanValkenburg led the play of Iowa’s defensive front, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors, while junior tackle Noah Shannon earned honorable mention recognition following his first season as a starter. Iowa’s defensive line in 2021 featured three players in their first year as starters.
VanValkenburg signed a free agent contract with the Las Vegas Raiders immediately following the 2022 NFL Draft. In three consecutive years, 2019-21, the Hawkeyes had a defensive lineman selected in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft.
Iowa’s most recent bowl game invitations include the 2022 Citrus Bowl, 2020 Music City Bowl, 2019 Holiday Bowl, 2019 Outback Bowl, 2017 Outback Bowl, 2016 Rose Bowl Game, 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl and 2014 Outback Bowl. The Hawkeyes have ranked in the final top 10 of both major polls five times in the past 20 seasons.
Iowa has appeared in 12 January bowl games since 2001 and has recorded January bowl wins over Florida (2004 Outback), Louisiana State (2005 Capital One), South Carolina (2009 Outback), Georgia Tech (2010 Orange), and Mississippi State (2019 Outback).
Iowa has won 167 games over the past 20 seasons, including 103 Big Ten games. Along with the 2021 and 2015 division titles, the Hawkeyes earned a share of the Big Ten title in both 2002 and 2004 and tied for second in 2009. Iowa has finished in the Big Ten’s first division in 19 of the past 21 years.
Following back-to-back narrow losses to open the 2020 season, Iowa won six straight games, all in Big Ten play, to complete the regular season. The Hawkeyes allowed just seven points in three of the six wins. The winning streak included road wins at Minnesota, Penn State and Illinois, and trophy game victories over Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes were ranked 15th in the nation in the final CFP rankings and coaches poll, and 16th by the Associated Press. The Hawkeyes were selected to compete in the 2020 Music City Bowl, but that event was canceled.
Iowa’s defense in 2020 led the nation in allowing opponents just 4.3 yards per play. The Hawkeyes ranked among the national leaders in several additional categories, including scoring (16.0, 7th), pass efficiency defense (110.1, 9th), rushing defense (107.6, 11th), total defense (313.8, 12th), red zone defense (.727, 12th), and interceptions (11, 19th).
Junior tackle Daviyon Nixon earned unanimous consensus All-America honors. He was named the Big Ten’s defensive lineman and defensive player of the year while earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. He was a finalist for both the Outland Trophy and Nagurski Award. Senior end Chauncey Golston also earned first-team All-Big Ten honors, while end Zach VanValkenburg earned second-team honors. Golston was a third round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft (Dallas) and Nixon was selected by Carolina in the fifth round. Tackle Jack Heflin signed a free agent contract with Green Bay immediately following the draft.
Iowa won 47 games from 2015-19, the highest total in school history over any five-year period, and a total that ranked ninth nationally. Iowa won its final four games in 2019 and ranked 15th in the nation in the final Associated Press and coaches polls.
The Hawkeyes concluded the 2019 campaign with a 10-3 record following a 49-24 win over No. 22 Southern California in the Holiday Bowl. The three losses were all to ranked opponents by a combined 14 points. The Hawkeyes were 4-1 in trophy games for the third straight season.
The 2019 Hawkeye defense ranked among the top 17 in the nation in scoring defense (5th, 14.0), first downs allowed (9th, 16.6), total defense (12th, 308.2), rushing defense (14th, 112.5), turnover margin (14th, 0.7), and pass efficiency defense (17th, 116.0). The Hawkeyes ranked in the top five nationally in fewest penalties and fewest penalty yards. Iowa opponents have averaged less than 20 points per game in each of the last five seasons.
Iowa completed the 2018 season with a 9-4 mark and a final ranking of 25th in the Associated Press national rankings. The Hawkeyes earned a 27-22 Outback Bowl win over No. 18 Mississippi State to close the season with three straight wins. The four losses came by a total of 23 points and all were decided in the final minutes of play. Iowa tied for second in the Big Ten West Division.
Iowa, in 2018, ranked seventh nationally in total defense (293.6), eighth in turnovers gained (27) 11th in scoring defense (17.8) and 12th in rushing defense (109.5). Iowa’s defense was second in the Big Ten in red zone defense and third in total sacks (35).
The Hawkeyes posted a perfect 12-0 regular season record in 2015, winning the West Division of the Big Ten Conference. Iowa participated in the 2016 Rose Bowl Game and the 2015 Big Ten Championship and ended the season in the top 10 in the final national rankings.
Junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa earned first and second-team All-America honors while leading Iowa in sacks for the second straight season in 2019. Epenesa earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and was the defensive MVP in Iowa’s holiday Bowl win over Southern California. Epenesa, who declared for the 2020 NFL Draft, had 2.5 sacks vs. Southern California as Iowa allowed the Trojans just 22 net rushing yards. Junior end Chauncey Golston and senior tackle Cedrick Lattimore earned honorable mention All-Big Ten recognition.
Epenesa was selected by Buffalo in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. In addition, Lattimore signed a free agent contract with Seattle immediately following the draft.
In 2018, Epenesa earned first-team all-Big Ten honors and defensive end Anthony Nelson was named to the second team. End Parker Hesse and tackle Matt Nelson earned honorable mention recognition. Anthony Nelson declared for the NFL Draft following his junior season and was selected by Tampa Bay in the fourth round. Matt Nelson, Hesse and Sam Brincks were all invited to NFL workouts immediately following the draft.
The 2017 Iowa defense ranked 17th in the nation in scoring defense (19.9). Anthony Nelson earned second team All-Big Ten and first team Academic All-America honors, while senior tackle Nathan Bazata was honorable mention All-Big Ten.
The 2016 Hawkeyes ranked 13th in the nation in scoring defense and red zone defense, 19th in pass efficiency defense, and 23rd in total defense. Tackle Jaleel Johnson earned first team All-Big Ten honors, while Bazata and Hesse earned honorable mention recognition.
Johnson and Faith Ekakitie, also a senior tackle in 2016, have moved to the professional football ranks. Johnson was a fourth round selection of the Minnesota Vikings in the 2017 NFL Draft, while Ekakitie was the first player selected in the 2017 CFL Draft (Winnipeg).
Bell interned with four NFL organizations (Minnesota Vikings, 2013; New York Giants, 2014; Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals, 2015) as part of the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship.
Bell joined the Iowa staff after serving as an assistant coach at Trinity International University, where he served as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator in 2011. Two of his offensive linemen earned all-conference honors in 2011.
Bell served two seasons (2008-09) as offensive line coach at Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska. He helped lead the Wildcats to their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division II playoffs in 2008 while posting a two-year record of 17-6. Bell coached five offensive linemen who went on to earn all-conference, all-region and All-America honors.
Before coaching at WSC, Bell coached the offensive line at Cornell College for two seasons (2006-2007). He gained his first coaching experience at Regina High School in Iowa City (2004-06), where he served as junior high coach, varsity weight room supervisor, and assistant varsity coach. Regina earned its first-ever state football championship in 2005 after reaching the semifinals in 2004.
Bell first joined the Iowa program as a defensive lineman in 2000. He redshirted in his first year at Iowa and later had his career cut short due to injury. As a prep, he earned first team all-conference honors for three straight seasons as an offensive and defensive lineman. He earned all-district, all-region and all-county recognition as a senior.
Bell earned his B.A. in mathematics, with a computer science concentration, from the University of Iowa in 2005. He earned his master’s degree in sports management in 2014.
Bell is a native of Olive Branch, Mississippi. His wife’s name is Natalee.
Bell’s Coaching Career
School – Position, Years
Iowa – Defensive Line, 2019-present
Iowa – Defensive Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator, 2016-18
Iowa – On-Campus Recruiting Director, 2014-15
Trinity International – Offensive Line/Running Game Coordinator, 2011
Wayne State – Offensive Line, 2008-09
Cornell College – Offensive Line, 2006-07
Regina High School (Iowa City) – Assistant Coach, 2004-06