The first strides on that journey started on Tom Adams Field on the campus of Wayne State University in 2006 and would later take Bell through Buffalo, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Philadelphia again, New Orleans and finally back to Detroit.
Bell has finally found his place, and his home, in Detroit after signing a three-year, $9.3 million contract ($4.3 million guaranteed) this offseason.
On Wednesday, Bell returned to the place where it all started and brought his Lions teammates with him for an open practice at Wayne State.
"It definitely started here. I'm definitely home,” Bell told reporters before the practice. “It's great to be back and for me to play college ball here, to be from Michigan, to play for Wayne State and now I'm playing the Detroit Lions. To bring the Detroit Lions back to Wayne State is a great feeling. So many memories here and this is a day I'll never forget."
Bell set every significant record for a running back in his four seasons at Wayne State (2006-09), including rushing yards in a season (2,084 in 2009) and career (6,728).
In 2009, Bell won the Harlon Hill Award, given to the best player in Division II football.
Bell rushed for 414 yards and caught 485 yards worth of passes in his first full season in Detroit in 2012. He increased those marks to 650 rushing and 547 receiving last year.
It was a special night for Bell, who addressed the crowd and was even welcomed by a double rainbow after a brief rainstorm before practice.
"When you get to the NFL and me coming out undrafted from a small school, a lot of people counted me out, but one thing you can never do in this league is lose confidence in yourself,” Bell said.
“That's one thing I never lost and it worked out for me. God had a plan for me and now I'm back home."
The Lions welcomed hundreds of PAL (Police Athletic League) youth football players on the field to shake hands with Lions players as they arrived. For all those young men, Bell can certainly be a player to look up to.
“One of the things you know is his personality it such where he's just a quality guy,” head coach Jim Caldwell said of Bell.
“He's certainly fun-loving, but he's also a guy that serious about his craft. He's got a lot to share and teach young people that have come up the way in which he did. To come from a school like Wayne State and he's done a tremendous job in our league. I think he's a great inspiration."
LIONS CLAIM RECEIVER
The Lions filled their vacant roster spot by claiming receiver
"He's a big, physical guy,” Caldwell said. “He's certainly one of those guys that we look for who has the opportunity to come in and add something a little bit different than the guys we have.
“He's one of those guys that have good, solid hands and young. He's youthful guy with some size. We're excited to get him."
The Lions had an open spot after releasing injured defensive end Kalonji Kashama on Monday.
Payton, who went undrafted out of North Carolina State this year, will compete for a job in a crowded receiver corps that includes
-- The Lions began their practice period with a special teams period and
--Little bit of an anxious moment for the Lions when
--Corey Fuller lit up the Wayne State crowd when he went up and over