Approximately seven years ago Vonn Bell and Eli Apple helped lock down the secondary en route to a National Championship. Now they are doing it again in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Yes, technically only half of the starting 2014 Ohio State secondary is still in the NFL, as Tyvis Powell, Doran Grant, and Gareon Conley are currently not on NFL rosters. However, the contributions of Bell and Apple have been critical in once again leading a team from Ohio to a championship game appearance.
On the season, Eli Apple has had a career year recording 49 tackles, two interceptions and 10 pass breakups. The former 10th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft has found a home with the Bengals despite playing on a one-year contract.
In the divisional round against the Tennessee Titans, Apple made arguably the play of the game knocking the ball out of Nick Westbrook-Ikhine’s grasp into the arms of Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson resulting in an interception. The Bengals would go onto kick a game winning field goal as a result of Apple’s defensive play.
Most recently against the Kansas City Chiefs, Apple made a clutch goal line tackle that kept the Chiefs from putting any extra points on the board before halftime.
— Eli Apple (@EliApple) January 30, 2022
Meanwhile, Vonn Bell has been a constant in the Bengals secondary ever since he arrived from the New Orleans Saints in 2020. Famously known for putting a monster hit on Juju Smith-Schuster, the hard hitting safety finished second on the team with 97 tackles and recorded one interception this regular season.
However, no play was bigger than Bell’s overtime interception off of Patrick Mahomes.
RING THAT BELL!
Watch on CBS pic.twitter.com/dDZVDGwW3i
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) January 30, 2022
Even Bengals head coach Zac Taylor was impressed by Bell.
“It is fitting they made a play on the ball like that. I can’t wait to see it. I did not have great vision on the play. I just saw Vonn come out of there with it. I am proud of those guys. They have mastered this takeaway thing these last couple of weeks. It has really enabled us to play the type of game we want to play and get to the Super Bowl like we did,” said Taylor in the post game interview.
There is no denying that the Bengals wouldn’t be in the position they are today without the contributions of Apple and Bell. Both players from the 2014 secondary are why the Bengals have one of the tops defenses in the NFL.
The “bend don’t break” mentality that Buckeye fans watched against Alabama and Oregon in 2014 has carried over to this Bengals squad.
However, the biggest test remains for the duo as they will face the dynamic air attack of Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. in Super Bowl LVI. But if there is one thing time has taught us it is to never bet against these Buckeyes.