Even though his offseason rehabilitation prevented him from experiencing the National Football League Combine fully, Farmington Hills native Mark Dell took advantage of the opportunity.
After being a key figure in the Michigan State University offense since his freshman season, the former star aims for an NFL career. Today, that future seems in doubt, as the League early Saturday reportedly "locked out" players over a labor dispute that is now headed to U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
"I think about it all the time,” Dell said of the conflict. “I don't want it to be a situation where there's not any football but at the same time, I understand."
At last month's Combine, the league’s annual college scouting showcase for potential draftees, the dream still seemed within Dell's grasp. Though he didn’t complete the on-field workouts, he took advantage of the interview opportunities at the event, held in Indianapolis, as any aspiring college graduate would. He spent his days selling himself as a commodity a team would want: a player and a leader.
"My catching and route running are my strengths,” Dell said. “That's what I do best. Of course, there's room for improvement, as far as me being a professional. I feel like I run good routes and can catch the ball well. As far as leadership, I'm not going to do a lot of yelling and everything, but I like to lead on the field through what I can do."
The 6-foot, 193-pound receiver is bringing with him all his experiences from Michigan State, as well as from Harrison, to the NFL. Dell keeps in touch with Harrison High’s football coach, John Herrington, and said he last spoke to his former coach in mid-November when he returned home during a Michigan State bye week.
He’s also received advice from a former Michigan State teammate who has been through what Dell’s going through now. Tennessee Titans running back Javon Ringer spent two seasons with Dell at MSU and has been talking with the receiver through this process.
"He gave me some good advice,” Dell said. “Pretty much not to feel overwhelmed or anything like that. And just be relaxed and sell myself. Don't try to be anybody that I'm not."
One of the experiences Dell plans to draw on as he speaks with NFL teams is the fact that he’s played with three different quarterbacks while in college. He feels that has helped make him a more well-rounded pass catcher because he’s learned to adjust quickly to catching passes from someone he hasn’t worked with for an extended time.
“You could say that it helped me a lot, especially for a time like this where you don't really know what quarterback you'll be catching the ball from,” he said. “At the same time, being a receiver, it's my job to catch the ball no matter who is throwing it, so I've got to prepare myself that way."
The labor strife in the NFL is a cause for concern for Dell, as it is for every player, but he shared that he can’t dwell on it for long. Whether there’s a season in 2011 or not, he knows he has to approach everything just as he always has: work hard and be ready for anything.
"The only thing I can do is focus on what I can do, and when the time comes, make sure I'm on top of my game so I'm ready," he said.
Editor's Note: Grad Post is a new Farmington/Farmington Hills Patch feature that follows graduates of Farmington public and private schools who are making their way in the world. Know someone we should profile? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org