Nathaniel “Tank” Dell sold the route with a convincing jab before accelerating past coverage, creating a ton of separation in quick fashion and a clear passing lane for University of Houston quarterback Clayton Tune. Between the wide receiver’s explosive speed and crisp route, Tune had an easy line of sight to connect with him for a deep touchdown pass.
Nathaniel “Tank” Dell looks to position Houston for a championship run.
It was a recurring theme for Tank Dell, the whose given name is Nathaniel, as he torched opposing defenses during a standout season last year. Dell finished with 90 receptions for 1,329 yards and 12 touchdowns after building strong chemistry and synchronization with Tune.
Dell finished the season strong, including five receptions for 100 yards in the final seven games and 152 yards against Cincinnati and first-round corner Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner in the conference championship game.
What it all means for the diminutive Daytona Beach, Fla. native when he returns for his junior season: positioning his team for a potential championship run during his final season in the American Athletic Conference before heading to the Big 12 Conference and honing his skills for his ultimate goal, the NFL.
“I’m very excited about the upcoming season,” Dell said. “I’m ready to take my team back to a championship, back to a championship, this time hopefully Houston can win a championship. I have goals set at this point. I’m just trying to chase greatness.”
Dell’s obvious speed, polished patterns and solid hands make him one of the nation’s most dangerous wide receivers. He has emerged as the Coogs’ go-to wide receiver and the focal point of an offense that is expected to lean heavily on him again this fall.
A former transfer from Alabama A&M and Independence Community College who chose the Coogs 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 emerged as the headliner on offense last season.
Dell chases NFL dream
Dell’s success has positioned him for a run at the next level all the way to the 2023 NFL Draft. Dell is primarily focused on his team and his individual goals, but a future in professional soccer is never far from his thoughts.
One NFL scout noted that Dell’s lack of ideal size at 5-foot-10, 155 pounds is a factor in the evaluation, but emphasized, “This game is all about speed and the ability to make plays. I don’t doubt Tank’s ability or his heart. 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 that’s [what] I’ve been dreaming about, but the job isn’t done,” Dell said. “I’ve got to have two good years. I had a good year. want to be great I’ve got to put in another great year and go from there.”
A first-team all-conference selection last season who finished eighth nationally in touchdown receptions, Dell had 165 yards receiving and three touchdowns in a win over SMU last season.
Dell routinely slotted in behind the corners. Every time he runs the 40-yard dash, he has a prediction of his time: “I’ll run a 4.3.”
Overcoming lack of size
While Dell isn’t a big target on the field, he has shown durability and toughness for Coogs with a willingness to go up the middle and absorb hits.
“I know I’m not the biggest,” Dell said. “I’ve never been the greatest, but I’ve always felt like I can go out on the field and say to myself, ‘I’m the best.’ That said, I think my game has to do with speed and quickness. The bigger guys do what they do, but I can separate myself by being quick and fast and getting open.”
Playing for coach Dana Holgorsen in a wide-open offense is “a lot of fun,” Dell said. And the connection Dell has with Tune, who threw for 3,456 yards and 30 touchdowns last season, is expected to grow.
“It’s been great playing with Clayton,” Dell said. “I’ve been catching passes from Clayton for the last two years. Third time’s going to be the charm.”
Dell takes time to give back
During a youth soccer camp at UH hosted by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Grant Stuard, Dell took time to break down 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.”