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Bronco between jobs still moved the ball

Hired as phone retailer, Bell boosted sales 30%

Published November 17, 2008 at 12:05 a.m.

Alex Barrios did a double-take when he saw the name on the resume.

The name was Tatum Bell.

Barrios is a manager responsible for hiring for The Mobile Solution, which operates a kiosk in the Aurora Mall where cell phones and wireless plans are sold. Barrios is also a Denver Broncos fan.

It was early September. Bell, a Broncos running back in 2005 and 2006, had just found himself unemployed after playing a season for the Detroit Lions.

Barrios called him, not sure it really was the ex-Bronco. It was.

"I just got cut," Bell told Barrios. "I need to find a job."

After a series of interviews, Bell got one, managing The Mobile Solution's second- floor kiosk, near Macy's. Early on, Barrios saw that Bell had all the trappings of a football star - a nice house, an electric blue Mercedes - but none of the attitude. And he saw that even though he didn't have retail experience, he was outgoing and eager.

Bell threw himself into the new job even as orange and blue reminders of his old one hung nearby. Not 30 feet away from the kiosk stands a Fanzz store, one wall prominently covered with Broncos jerseys of nearly every number and name. Dre Bly's 32. Eddie Royal's 19. Jay Cutler's 6, in three colors - white, orange, blue - no less.

"I walked in here one day to work, and I was like, 'Hey, that's Tatum Bell,'" said Ryan Elliott, a part-time Fanzz associate and full-time Broncos fan. "I'm upset I never got the chance to talk to him."

He saw Bell around the mall. He saw him spend time with kids who came by the kiosk and asked for his autograph.

Barrios saw a hard worker who was always on the job early, who instituted a "fine" system for his employees not unlike that practiced in the NFL: The price for showing up to work late was a box of Krispy Kremes for the whole gang. Work was fun, and Barrios said he saw revenues shoot up 30 percent during the two months Bell managed the store.

"He was just," Barrios said, pausing, searching for the right words, "nothing what I expected, basically."

But it wasn't to last. Last week, Bell left The Mobile Solution after the Broncos offered him another shot. He couldn't give the customary two weeks' notice, and that was just fine with Barrios.

And it was just fine with the guys at the store, like Mike Dominguez and Eric Amaro.

"He's cool," Dominguez said.

The reason for his respect was simple: "Just to see somebody who used to play football come in and do the 9-to-5 thing."

"He's a cool guy," Amaro said Sunday between customers.

For the two months he managed the store, Bell's workers hoped he might get another shot in the NFL. Then, after a couple of tryouts with other teams, it came with the Broncos.

"I was happy for him," Amaro said. "That's what he wanted."

Sunday, between customers, Dominguez kept tabs on the game on - what else? - his phone.

And at the end of the day, the news was all good for these Bell backers.

With Denver nursing a 24-20 lead in Atlanta, and less than a minute to play, the Broncos turned to a guy who a week ago was managing a cell-phone store in the Aurora Mall.

Tatum Bell to the left for three yards.

Tatum Bell to the right for six yards.

Tatum Bell to the left for five yards.

Ballgame. And time for Barrios to start looking for a new manager.

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