Nov 12, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars wide receiver Nathaniel Dell (1) celebrates his touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Temple Owls at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports
Nathaniel “Tank” Dell prayed that he got an opportunity to stay in the city of Houston, his second home, to play in the NFL.
For Dell, that prayer was answered on Friday evening when the Houston Texans traded up to take him No. 69 overall in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
“They’re getting a dog. They’re getting a competitor, a winner, a very loyal teammate, a leader,” Dell told media on a Friday night Zoom call. “Someone who wants to come in the program every day, with the organization every day, and get better. 1% better every day. I don’t take practices off. I don’t take days off. I’m coming to give y’all everything I got. Literally, everything I got.”
After spending three seasons with the Houston Cougars, Dell wasn’t ready to leave the city he had fallen in love with, he said.
Just six days following his final game with UH, a 23-16 victory over Louisiana in the Independence Bowl that featured Dell coming away with the game-winning 12-yard touchdown catch, Dell sent a direct message to the Texans’ official account on Instagram.
He told the team not to let him leave Houston. The city that took a chance on him coming out of Independence Community College located in Independence, Kansas, and the city whose culture he fell in love with.
“I didn’t really have nobody to lean on, nobody really wanted to take that chance,” Dell said. “This city took a chance on me. This city brought me in. The fans was loving me, and I’m loving the fans.”
Over the course of the months leading up to the NFL Draft, Dell worked out and spoke with multiple teams, including the Texans’ contingent led by general manager Nick Caserio and head coach DeMeco Ryans. Houston’s coaches were loving Dell, and he was loving the team, Dell said.
Again, Dell told the Texans’ staff his wish to remain home.
Fast forward to Friday, and that desire was fulfilled. When the 5-foot-10-inch receiver got the phone call, and eventually his name was called by the Texans, his family and friends all started shedding tears.
“I always told myself I would be in this position,” Dell said. “I always told myself that I would make it to the NFL no matter the critics, the doubters, I’ll always overcome that and show everybody, show myself, prove to myself, and show everybody that I am supposed to be here.”
Now officially a member of the Texans, the real work begins for Dell.
The receiver said he is excited for the opportunity to play with Houston’s top pick in the draft — former Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud. Dell’s top goal is to help get the Texans back to competitiveness.
“Just like when I first got here to UH, we was on that rebuilding type of process, and I came in and helped flourish the program,” Dell said. “You know, we got some wins under our belt [with UH], championships.
“I am expecting to do the same thing when I step into the organization — get to the Super Bowl, win championship games, things like that. I’m coming to give y’all everything I got.”
One of the major concerns regarding Dell was his height. It is likely one of the biggest reasons he fell to the third round. For Caserio, however, it is not about how tall a player is or about any other physical attribute, but rather, how well a player can utilize their skillsets.
“You can’t change your size, whatever you are. But what you can do is maximize what you have as an individual player, so I think Tank takes a lot of pride in who he is, what he is about, and what he has overcome,” Caserio said.
Dell’s size did not hamper him from starring in college with the Cougars. In 2022, he led the country with 17 receiving touchdowns. He was also second in the nation with 109 receptions.
Tank Dell is a player that brings an element of explosiveness to the team and to Houston’s offense, Caserio said. The Daytona Beach, Florida native agreed.
“Explosive plays. I feel like that should be my nickname cause all I know is explosive plays,” Dell said. “I’m coming to help. I just want to win. You can ask anybody who has been around me. I have a winning spirit. That is all I want to do is win.”