Recruiters loved his size and speed, just as NFL scouts do now. At last month's NFL scouting combine, he was measured at 6 feet 1 1/2 and 211 pounds -- considered big for a cornerback -- and had a best time of 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
"He didn't have great hands," said Goodwin, now the Chicago Bears' assistant offensive line coach. "But he was a physical player, and you just don't find many kids his size who can run like he can run."
Ronald Bartell Sr. and his wife Phyllis play with their grandson Jaedyn in their Detroit home. Jaedyn is Ronald Bartell Jr.'s 2-year-old son.
(Gary Malerba - The Washington Post)
Bartell took a recruiting visit to the nearby University of Michigan but never felt, he says, that the school was seriously interested in him, and he left in the middle of a game against Ohio State. He ended up picking Central Michigan over Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green, according to his parents. He liked the Chippewas' head coach at the time, Mike DeBord, and he felt a connection with Goodwin even though Goodwin, as an offensive line coach, wouldn't be directly coaching him.
The choice would be ill-fated, as Bartell quickly came to dislike life at the Mount Pleasant, Mich., school. "There was nothing to do there," Bartell said. "You can either party or gamble, and I didn't do either. I never liked the school."
Bartell said the final, biggest factor in his decision to leave was when he learned he would be getting his fifth position coach in his 2 1/2 years at the school (he redshirted for a season, then played two seasons). He went home to Detroit for Christmas break and abruptly told his parents one day he was leaving Central Michigan.
"The minute he said, 'I'm not going back to Central,' I said, 'Finish that sentence. Where are you going? Quitting is not an option,' " Phyllis Bartell said.
Nunn was at Howard, playing wide receiver on the football team. Bartell had visited the school and had told his friend if he left Central Michigan, he would go to Howard. He wasn't serious at the time he said it, he says now. But he soon became serious and quickly got the school's coaches interested in him by sending game tapes. He transferred for the spring semester and played for the Bison the past two seasons.
He played cornerback at Howard after splitting his time between safety and cornerback at Central Michigan, and NFL scouts began showing up regularly to see him last season. Howard secondary coach Ron Bolton, who played for the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns in the 1970s and early '80s, sat Bartell down for a long talk after his junior season and told Bartell he was a solid NFL prospect. Over the past year, Bartell's ambitions have grown from hoping to be invited to a pro training camp to believing, increasingly, he will be an early-round pick.
He is 11 credits shy of a criminal justice degree, he says, but there is no time to fret about that now. He has gone through the whirlwind pre-draft evaluation process, from the Senior Bowl in January to the scouting combine late last month to readying for his on-campus workout for NFL scouts next week at Howard. He has shuttled back and forth lately between D.C., Detroit and Arizona, and he has been in contact with 31 of the 32 NFL teams -- all but the hometown Lions, he says.
His life most likely is about to change. The player picked with the first selection of the second round in last year's draft, Auburn linebacker Karlos Dansby, signed a four-year, approximately $5 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals that included a $2.1 million signing bonus. Players drafted in the middle of the second round got signing bonuses of around $1.5 million, and those selected in the third round got around $500,000.
Ron Jr. knows one item he won't be spending his signing bonus on -- a new house for his parents, who say they're perfectly content where they are.
"We've already had that discussion," Phyllis Bartell said. "I said, 'No.' His success is his success. I said, 'Send us on a vacation. Invest your money.' We're okay. We make enough to take care of ourselves. I told him, 'If I can get you out of my pocket, I'll be okay. No more calls for me to send you $100.' "