Leaving a legacy: Nick Bellore wraps up illustrious career at CMU
Forget about the record books. Forget about the consecutive start streak.
All that matters to senior linebacker Nick Bellore is that he did the best he could with the time he had at CMU.
As his last season as a Chippewa comes to an end, there is only one thing that counts and it has nothing to do with breaking records.
“At the end of the day all that matters is that I have the respect of the people that have watched me and more importantly the people I have played with,” Bellore said. “I think I have gained that respect as a player and a person and that means the world to me.”
And respect he has earned.
Last Saturday’s game against Navy was the first sporting event Bellore has ever missed in his entire career. He received 16 stitches to his lip, an injury suffered against Western Michigan.
High school, middle school, college — it was his first missed game in his life, snapping a consecutive start streak of 51 games, second-most in CMU history.
It all started back in middle school. He was a chubby sixth grader from Wisconsin and one of the bigger kids in his grade. His father, Jim, knew he was going to be an athlete.
At the time, Jim Bellore was really into hockey but, because of Nick’s size, he knew football was a good sport for him.
So he volunteered his time to be an assistant coach and the career of Nick Bellore began.
Because he was bigger than most of his peers, Nick played offensive and defensive line throughout middle school. When he got to Whitefish Bay High School, things were just like before.
As a freshman in ninth grade, he earned his varsity letter in track and field, hockey and football. He continued to play offensive line and defensive end under head coach Jim Tietjen. When sophomore year came, everything changed for Bellore.
His body began to change, he gave up on his hockey dream and the workout routine started.
“I started to focus on football because that is what I wanted to do at the next level,” Bellore said. “I have always had a lot of confidence in myself and I knew what I wanted to do. Freshman year I was a decent player but after that is when I started working out a lot harder.”
Owing a lot to Varney
That is when Nick met strength and conditioning coach Chris Varney, who was a strength coach at Kentucky before moving to Wisconsin. He helped coach at Bellore’s high school and started working out with Nick at the team’s 6 a.m. workout sessions.
“When I first met Nick, he was a short, fat kid that could not run,” Varney said. “He had a big heart and a big motor. He just athletically had not blossomed yet.”
Soon enough he would start to work out with Varney, not only in school but outside of school as well. Although he gave up playing hockey, Bellore continued to run track and field in high school his sophomore year. The summer before his junior year, football became a real priority.
High school head coach Jim Tietjen’s son, Joey Tietjen, came up with a suggestion. Joey helped out his dad with coaching and was a former player at Whitefish Bay.
He suggested moving Nick from defensive end to linebacker before his junior year and the change would turn out to be a big one.
“(He was) the biggest help for me football-wise,” Bellore said. “If I did not work out with him I would not have gotten a Division I scholarship. He taught me a lot about how it works, not just doing it. I owe a lot to him.”
Colleges soon began to take an interest in Bellore, who was gaining size and speed with each passing year. After his junior year in high school, many schools were showing a greater interest in him. But only one school seemed right.
Bellore’s mother, Mary, is a CMU alumna and his father is a Michigan State alumnus so the connections to the state of Michigan were uncanny.
All of the hard work Nick had put forth in high school was about to pay off in a way that he had never believed would happen.
“Everything I did in high school was geared toward playing in college,” Bellore said. “(CMU) stepped up and it has been wonderful ever since. I liked it here so much I would not have even considered other MAC or Big Ten schools.”
Nick got the decision out of the way, committing before his senior year of high school, and had a load of stress lifted from his shoulders. After his senior year of football earning first team all-state honors, Bellore left high school early to enroll at CMU. He arrived on campus in the spring of 2007.
Learning from the best
As a college freshman, he still had a lot of growing and learning to do. Two teammates, former linebackers Ike Brown and Red Keith, showed Bellore what it meant to be a Chippewa and helped him at his position.
Little did they know they were mentoring what would come to be one of the best linebackers in CMU football history.
“When you leave that early and are involved at that level, he went through an early maturation process with playing football,” Jim Bellore said. “It was a perfect situation that benefited him in so many ways.”
Bellore broke the freshman single season tackles mark with 102, helping lead the team to the MAC championship and the Motor City Bowl in Detroit. He totaled 11 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in his first career bowl game.
In his sophomore year, Bellore’s best year statistically, he totaled 148 tackles and was named CMU defensive player of the year and most valuable linebacker. He was an All-MAC first team selection his sophomore and junior year.
And so this senior from Whitefish Bay, Wis., has left his legacy.
With one game remaining in his senior season, he has had a lot to look back on and a lot to look forward to. The numbers can tell you who he is on the field, but his impact off the field has been just as important.
The classic rock loving finance major has set a new standard for CMU football players.
You go hard or you don’t go at all.
Always willing to help, and teaching kids at his old high school are a big part of his life.
“I can’t say enough about how much I am going to miss this place and how much I look forward to being able to come back year after year and see the continual growth,” Bellore said. “I see so much promise in this university and they have given me so much. I like to think I did the best I could here.”
So who is Nick Bellore?
The answer is complex, but the message is simple.
A man who has earned respect.