Why Ron Bellamy's move from West Bloomfield to Michigan football is just the beginning

Jeff Seidel
Detroit Free Press

The trash talking — a fun, good-natured version — has already started.

Michigan safety Makari Paige, a freshman from West Bloomfield, kicked it off.

 “WB to AA,” Paige tweeted, with the "eyes" emoji, after reports surfaced that West Bloomfield football coach Ron Bellamy was taking a job on the Michigan staff, just hours after he had guided the Lakers to the Division 1 state title on Saturday, a 41-0 victory over Davison.

Bellamy, who will coach the wide receivers at U-M, will join three of his players in Ann Arbor: Paige,  linebacker Cornell Wheeler and Donovan Edwards, one of the top high school running backs in the country, who starred in Saturday's final.

“Ahhhh now I get to beat all of y’all at once,” replied Michigan State wide receiver Tre Mosley, a wide receiver from West Bloomfield.

Touche.

West Bloomfield head coach Ron Bellamy holds the trophy and celebrates with players and coaches after defeating Davison, 41-0, in the MHSAA Division 1 final at Ford Field, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021.

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 “This is by far the toughest decision I've had to make in my professional career,” Bellamy said Sunday.

Bellamy had been talking to Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh “for quite some time” but he agonized over leaving West Bloomfield — his coaching staff, the players and the relationships he has built over the last 12 years, including 11 as the head coach.

But it makes sense on many levels.

For both sides.

This was a home-run hire by Harbaugh, who has brought in several young coaches this offseason as part of a staff revamp. Bellamy, 39, played wide receiver at U-M from 1999-2002.

 “Anytime I'm in Ann Arbor, I get goosebumps,” Bellamy said. “It's a place that I love, a place that's helped raise me. To be able to walk through those doors at Schembechler Hall again — I know what it looks like when Michigan is Big Ten champs, when you are playing in these big-time bowl games. I know what it’s like. I'm 100% vested in the program. It's a no-brainer for me. But the toughest part is the people you have developed, the relationships that become part of your family for the past 12 years — it’s bittersweet.”

Bellamy will be joining a staff that includes Mike Hart as running backs coach, another home-run hire.

“Mike is my guy,” Bellamy said. “I love Mike. When Mike played at Michigan, I obviously followed him. But Mike and I have been tight for a long time. His road from Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Syracuse, IU (Indiana) and now to Michigan, I was with him the whole way. In the sense that he was recruiting our school.  I would pick his brain about things. Mike and I have been tight for a very long time.”

As far as development, Bellamy has cranked out several wide receivers at West Bloomfield. Over the past 11 years, four of his wideouts have played in the Big Ten: Mosley, Trishton Jackson (who started at MSU, then transferred to Syracuse) and Wisconsin’s Taj Mustapha and A.J. Abbott.

Jackson spent the 2020 season on the Los Angeles Rams' active roster but didn’t play in a game.

The best at building relationships

I have seen Bellamy's growth over the last decade. Both my sons played for Bellamy, and I have watched him transform a losing program into a state champion, creating a strong, sustained, winning culture. And I know one thing: Bellamy’s biggest strength is the relationships he builds with the players. He is outgoing and understands how high school athletes think.

I have no doubt that Bellamy is going to be an outstanding recruiter.

I assume he will focus on recruiting the state of Michigan. He has built relationships across the state and into the Detroit Public School League.

“Michigan plays very good high school football. Being a former high school coach now,” Bellamy said with a laugh. “I guess I can say that now — I understand the day-to-day operations of what high school coaches go through in the recruiting process.”

Bellamy has produced so much talent at West Bloomfield that nearly every big-name coach has recruited his players. Bellamy has seen what works and what doesn’t. And he knows what recruits worry about and what annoys them during the process.

Bellamy is a physical education teacher at West Bloomfield. But his main focus, during the offseason, has been getting his players into college. He worked tirelessly, not just for the Division I players, but his entire team, getting them to go to the next level.

Here is a stat I find almost unbelievable — but I know it’s true: Every single kid who started on defense for West Bloomfield over the past three years is playing college football.

“The biggest thing for me has been the countless amounts of kids that we have gotten opportunities to go play at the next level,” Bellamy said. “That's the one that I cherish the most.”

West Bloomfield head coach Ron Bellamy celebrates with kicker Jake Ward (16) after he made a field goal against Davison during the second half of the MHSAA Division 1 final at Ford Field, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021.

Not the first time, but the right time

This wasn’t Bellamy’s first chance to jump to the college ranks.

But it was the right time.

For Michigan, this could create a long-term pipeline to Ann Arbor. The Lakers have several players on their roster who either have multiple Big Ten offers or will, soon enough: defensive back Dillon Tatum (U-M), tight end Michael Williams (U-M), tackle Amir Herring (U-M), defensive end Brandon David (U-M), middle linebacker Kari Jackson (a talented freshman) and Ryan Ross, a freshman offensive guard who started every game on varsity.

It’s a tremendous amount of talent.

And now that Bellamy is at U-M, I have a sneaky suspicion that WB-to-AA pipeline is just beginning.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel/.