EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – At just 5’9, 180 Pounds UTEP’s Marcus Bellon isn’t the prototypical Division I FBS wide receiver.
However, the first-year Miner has already made himself invaluable to the team and made the play that may have saved UTEP’s season vs. Boise State using his special set of skills.
Bellon’s punt return of 47 yards for a touchdown during UTEP’s 27-10 upset victory over heavily-favored Boise State, was honored as the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday presented by Blenders Eyewear. It gave UTEP the push they needed for the win.
“Plays like that change all the momentum and take the heart out of a team,” he said on Monday.
The diminutive California native provided UTEP the spark it needed and it was the Miners’ first punt return touchdown since 2015. But, for Bellon, it was nothing new.
“I knew with my size, getting recruited at receiver would be difficult so I felt I had to have that edge of returning. I figured it was a pretty opportune situation,” Bellon said.
He earned C-USA Player of the Week honors for his work vs. the Broncos, but getting the win and his first UTEP touchdown against Boise state was personal for Bellon.
“It was a very cool moment because Boise State was my dream school growing up,” he said. “My grandparents live in Idaho and I always went to Boise State games. Then they didn’t offer me so that was a very ideal first touchdown vs. Boise State. There’s never been a team I’ve wanted to beat more than them.”
Bellon is the lone player in C-USA to score a touchdown on a punt return, while he ranks second in C-USA in punt return average (9.3 avg.). His 93 yards also rank second and he’s tied for first with 10 total punt returns. Bellon is one of 17 players at the national level who’s returned at least one punt for a score.
After playing quarterback in high school near Lake Tahoe, Bellon was a prolific return man at Santa Barbara City College last year, returning four punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2021, breaking the California junior college record.
Those numbers caught the eyes of UTEP head coach Dana Dimel and wide receiver coach Scotty Ohara; the Miners made their move late in the recruiting process and got Bellon to commit.
“Punt returners are just a different type. You’re either good at it or you’re not,” Dimel said. “They’re a rare breed and he’s just got that savvy for doing it.”
Bellon uses his vision and quickness to find holes, but returns are a team effort as much as anything.
“He attacked the ball, caught it and got vertical,” said UTEP special teams coordinator Aaron Price. “The guys did a nice job holding up, we got a bunch of really key blocks inside.”
He helped the Miners correct the trajectory of their season; now, he’ll look to be a big part of it the rest of the way. UTEP will try to snap its long losing streak in the Eastern Time Zone at Charlotte on Saturday at 4 p.m. MT.