GIRARD - Christian Bello has been around the Girard Indians football program ever since he could walk.
The senior's father, Mark, has been a member of the Girard coaching staff for at least 16 years (and has been the treasurer of the school district for 20 years), and Christian tagged along with him, starting out as a ballboy and moving up the ladder. Therefore, if there's anybody who understands what it means to be a Girard football player, Christian's that guy.
"Just going out there on Friday nights, it's so special when you run out there for Girard, playing for the city," Christian said. "No one really knows what it's like to play for the city until they get down there and play on the field, and I know what it's like because I've been down there for so long."
Christian's heading into his final season in the program, and the 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior is a big piece for the 2014 Indians on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. After backing up Nick Cardiero last season, Christian is stepping into the quarterback position, where he will split snaps with junior Jake Ryser, and he will start at inside linebacker after recording 35 tackles last fall.
Although his father is on the coaching staff, Christian said there was no nepotism in deciding on the quarterback spot.
"He's (Mark) glad that it didn't get handed to me just because he was a coach," Christian said. "I had to work for it, just like everybody else has to work for their spot."
For Mark, a Howland and Youngstown State University graduate, it's special to be able to coach his only son, even if Christian doesn't play in Mark's area of expertise. Along with being co-defensive coordinator with head coach Pat Pearson, Mark works a lot with the secondary.
"I have two daughters I'm very proud of, too, but the father-son bond is special and I just want him to do his best," Mark said. "I hope he can lead the team in a positive way, and win or lose, I will always be proud of him. I just want him to do his best."
Christian said his father gives him a lot of motivation to give his best every time he steps onto the field, citing Mark's unwavering pride in him whether Christian struggles or is successful.
"It gives me a lot of motivation to play because I play for him and myself," Christian said. "If I get down on myself, he's there, picking me up just like a father should."
Christian may have learned a thing or two about leading from his father (as well as some his Girard idols growing up), as the quarterback is taking the helm of an offense that lost most of its 2013 production. Cardiero, a 2,600-yard passer, graduated, and the Indians return just 21 rushing yards from the 2,176 yards the running attack accumulated during a 6-4 season.
Not only did Girard lose the statistics, but the team also lost a lot in leadership, forcing Christian, who tossed for just 30 yards in his few minutes under center last season, and others to step into that void.
"It's fun to watch him grow into that leadership role," Pearson said. "We got a way to go still. We're getting there, but he's definitely stepping up as a senior and definitely kind of embracing the role that he's in."
For Christian, that leadership role has been a long time coming.
"He's been waiting for this his whole life to play for Girard and be a leader," Mark said. "Hopefully, he's up to the challenge."