HOUSTON – Nathaniel “The Tank” Dell sold the route with a convincing jab step before accelerating past the coverage, creating a ton of separation on the rush and a clean passing lane for University of Houston quarterback Clayton Thune. Between the wide receiver’s explosive speed and accurate route running, Chun had an easy line of sight to connect with for a deep touchdown.
Nathaniel “The Tank” Dell is committed to positioning Houston for a championship
It was a recurring theme for Tank Dell, whose name is Nathaniel, as he torched opposing defenses during a breakout season last year. Dell finished with 90 receptions for 1,329 yards and 12 touchdowns after building strong chemistry and time with Tune.
Dell finished the season well, including five 100-yard receptions in the last seven games and 152 yards against Cincinnati and first-round cornerback Ahmad “The Sauce” Gardner in the conference championship game.
What it all means for the undersized native of Dayton Beach, Fla., as he returns for his junior season: positioning his team for a potential championship during their final season in the American Athletic Conference before heading to the Big 12 Conference and honing their skills for their ultimate goal, the NFL.
“I’m really excited for this upcoming season,” Dell said. “I’m ready to get my team back to the championship, back to the championship, this time, hopefully Houston can win the championship. Now I have goals. I’m just trying to chase greatness.”
Dell’s apparent speed, polished patterns and good hands make him one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the country. He has emerged as the Cougars’ top receiver and the centerpiece of an offense that is expected to lean heavily on him again this fall.
A former Alabama A&M and Independence Community College commit who chose the Cougs over Central Michigan, New Mexico State and South Florida, Dell caught 29 passes for 428 yards and three touchdowns in his first season in Houston. He then headlined the offense last season.
Dell is making the NFL dream come true
Dell’s success has allowed it to move to the next level by 2023 The NFL Draft. Dell is focused primarily on his team and individual goals, but a future in professional football is never far from his mind.
The NFL scout noted that Dell’s lack of ideal size at 5-foot-10, 155 pounds is a factor in the evaluation, but stressed, “This game is all about speed and the ability to make plays. I have no doubts about Tank’s ability or soul. He has what it takes to be an NFL wide receiver.”
Dell averaged 14.8 yards per catch and 94.9 yards per game last season.
“It’s great because it is [what] I dreamed about it, but the work is not done,” Dell said. “I have to put in two good years. I had one good year. I want to be big. I have to put another great year on it and go from there.”
Dell was a first-team all-conference selection last season and finished eighth nationally in receiving touchdowns. Dell had 165 receiving yards and three touchdowns in a win over SMU last season.
Dell usually got the cornerbacks behind him. Every time he runs the 40-yard dash, he predicts his time: “I’m going to run a 4.3.”
Overcoming the size disadvantage
While not a big target in midfield, Dell has shown toughness and grit for the Coogs with a willingness to get over the middle and absorb tackles.
“I know I’m not the greatest,” Dell said. “I was never the biggest, but I always felt like I could go out on the field and say to myself, ‘I’m the best.’ That being said, I think my game is all about speed and agility. Big guys, they do what they do, but I can separate myself by being fast and quick and being open.”
Playing for coach Dana Holgorsen in a wide-open offense is “hell fun,” Dell said. The connection between Dell and Tune, who passed for 3,456 yards and 30 touchdowns last season, is expected to only grow.
“It was great playing with Clayton,” Dell said. “I’ve been catching passes from Clayton the last two years. The third will be a charm. I’m still building. I’m still learning. I collect all the pieces.”
Dell takes time to pay back
During a youth football camp at UH hosted by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Grant Steward, Dell took time to discuss the fundamentals of the game and lead by example.
“Growing up, all I wanted was for the older guys to help me with my future,” Dell said. “To see things like this, NFL players like this helping the younger generation and college players helping the younger generation, it’s finally my time to help.”