Mark Dell: Growing Every Step of the Way
Nov. 17, 2010
By Hannah Case, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Senior Mark Dell's four-year career at Michigan State has been a journey - one that will end with him being one of the most accomplished wide receivers in school history.
An ESPN Top 150 recruit, Dell was one of the shining stars in head coach Mark Dantonio's first recruiting class in 2007. Although Dell committed to former coach John L. Smith prior to Dantonio's hiring, his commitment to Michigan State never wavered. And since then, Dell has witnessed the Spartans improve and progress year after year.
"The main thing our team was lacking was discipline, execution, and attention to detail," said Dell. "But Coach Dantonio brought all those things to the table and did a good job of improving this program."
Soon after he took his first steps on the campus of MSU, Dell took his first steps on the field of Spartan Stadium. As a true freshman in 2007, Dell appeared in all 13 games, including eight starts, and finished the year fifth on the team in receptions. He caught 20 passes for 220 yards and recorded two touchdowns. As a first-year player with a starting position, Dell knew he had to prove himself, but he managed to keep cool under fire.
"I tried not to put any added pressure on myself, because I had enough on me as a starting freshman," Dell said. "Early on I just did whatever I could to help my team."
It was a sign of good things to come for Dell.
He led the Spartans in receiving yards (679) and yards per catch (18.9) as a sophomore, and ended the season second best in touchdown catches (3) and third in receptions (36). In the 2008 season opener at California, he caught a career-high nine passes for 202 yards - the fifth-best single-game receiving total in MSU history.
As a junior, he was again one of the team's top threats downfield, ranking third in receptions (26) and receiving yards (449).
It's all added up to Dell currently ranking eighth in Michigan State history with 2,001 receiving yards and 11th with 123 receptions.
However, these numbers weren't just handed over to the Farmington Hills, Mich., native. Dell has gone above and beyond to earn his rank on the team. With three years of MSU football under his belt, Dell has become a mentor to the rest of the receivers.
During one workout this past summer, he and some of the younger Detroit-area receivers on the team went out to a local high school to catch passes from quarterback Kirk Cousins. Regularly one of the last Spartans to leave the practice field, Dell continues to put his nose to the grindstone even after he leaves the locker room.
"Coming back as a veteran receiver, I wanted to make it so I didn't need to come off the field," said Dell. "I try to run a mile per day to build up my endurance for games."
All the extra effort Dell has put toward improving his game has had extraordinary benefits. For instance, Dell has become MSU's primary receiver for long-ball passes.
"When I go on the field I just try to get open for the quarterback," he said. "It's my job to get open as much as possible and make looks for my teammates."
After four years, 44 games played, countless workouts, and extra hours in the gym, Dell admits his college career has been a learning process. Through all the ups and downs while at MSU, Dell says the most important thing he will take from his experiences is the way he has grown from it all.
"From knowing the playbook to being familiar with my surroundings on campus, I feel my four years at MSU has made me more mature," Dell said. "And that maturity has helped me on and off the field."
During his senior year wearing the Green and White, Dell has proven this personal growth by posting his most productive season yet. He has already caught a career-high 41 receptions, which ranks among the leaders in the Big Ten Conference.
It was also evident in MSU's 17-point comeback victory at Northwestern on Oct. 23. Dell tied his career high with nine catches for 109 yards in the 35-27 win, including a momentum-changing TD in the fourth quarter following a fake punt that cut the lead to three.
"Northwestern is a great team and they didn't back down from a challenge," Dell said during a postgame interview. "But at the same time, this is where champions are made. You have to fight through the adversity, and we did that (in the game)."
In May, Dell will graduate with a communication degree; but he isn't applying for jobs yet - his focus is still on football. After his senior season, Dell hopes he will be training for the NFL Combine. And while the camaraderie among his teammates is what Dell will miss most about being on campus, the Michigan State football program will miss Dell's ability to make plays on the gridiron and his guidance as a seasoned Spartan.
GETTING TO KNOW Mark Dell
FAVORITE SHOE: Jordan black and red elevens.
This feature was originally published in the Nov. 6 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine. Statistics in the story updated following the Minnesota game on Nov. 6.
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