From hoops to the gridiron

Mark Dell, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound athlete at Harrison High School in Farmington Hills, Mich., is now one of the top class of 2007 wide receiver prospects in the nation. But when he first entered high school, football was a cross trainer instead of a scholarship future.

Looking back at it now, Mark Dell chuckles at the thought of how he began playing football. What is amusing to Dell is not that he picked up the sport, but how far it appears poised to take him.

Dell, a 6-foot-1, 180-pounder at Harrison High School in Farmington Hills, Mich., is the No. 27 wide receiver prospect in the nation for the class of 2007, according to Scout.com, and is a four-star prospect. He holds scholarship offers from the likes of Iowa, Michigan State, Missouri, Purdue and Wisconsin.

All this for an athlete who insists he still has a lot to learn about football, a sport he did not play until high school — and only because he wanted to utilize it to stay in shape and build strength for basketball.

"Like in the beginning, I was just going to do football to stay in shape for basketball," Dell said in a telephone interview this month. "I found that I was pretty good.

"I mean I always liked football but I never really thought I was able to play like that. But I found out I was pretty good at it and I just stuck with it and kept working hard at it."

Dell still plays basketball; he is a shooting guard on Harrison's varsity. But he quickly learned that he had a future in football at a school that has recently produced players such as Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton and Michigan cornerback Charles Stewart.

"My freshman year I played freshman and I got moved up to varsity" for the playoffs, Dell said. "For me, the history of Harrison and everything that went with that, around our area that was a big thing. So I pretty much stuck at it and worked with the coaches and everything. Everything was seriously like a brand-new thing for me because I didn't really know a lot of things about routes and plays and anything like that. So basically everything for me on varsity was like starting from scratch."

Dell was primarily a practice body during Harrison's playoff run his freshman year, but the experience still did wonders for his confidence. He played regularly as a sophomore and started for the first time as a junior.

"My sophomore year was actually when I was actually getting more playing time," Dell said. "I didn't start then either because I was… still learning and learning what plays and everything like that. So I was in back of another senior, but I still played, so basically my sophomore year was my first year playing."

In the spring of his sophomore year, Dell was invited to a Nike camp at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Said Dell: "My sophomore year was when I was still in a learning process, of which I still am now, but in a learning process and I was going to the camps and they taught me a lot of things about my routes and everything like that. Being a little more precise on my routes and catching ability…

"I attended the Nike camp my sophomore year, which was pretty good because it's invitation only and usually sophomores don't really get to go. But my dad had talked to my coach about… seeing if they would make an exception… So he sent out some tape (of) me and not too long after that they sent me an invitation…

"Actually that was like the camp that meant the most because it was invitation only and I got invited to it. It was a big step for me."

Dell took another step last fall when he had 945 yards receiving and began to turn heads with his athletic ability and body control. Camp visits this spring to the Nike camp at Ohio State, the adidas elite camp at Notre Dame and the Scout.com combine in Louisville have added momentum to his recruitment. When he spoke with Badger Nation, Dell was hoping to attend several camps this summer to check out the campuses and continue to receive coaching to bolster his development.

"Every time I go to a camp (working with) college coaches, they know a lot more than I do," Dell said. "So they fill my head with knowledge and everything like that about the game, the stuff that I don't know yet. So hopefully when I get to college I will learn a lot more too. That's the main thing about college is they prepare you for a lot of the things that you have to go through."

Dell credited his prep football coach, John Herrington, for his fast trajectory in football.

"Coach Herrington, he's an excellent coach," Dell said. "He taught me a lot and I owe him a lot because he basically got me where I am because he took a lot (of time)… It was a strenuous (process) and we had a lot of time. He worked with me, he called me down after school sometimes and like worked with me on plays and everything like that. But right now I've pretty much got everything — I could use more work — but I've come a long way."

Dell did not grow up a fan of any college football team in particular because he was more interested in track and field in his youth.

"I followed pretty much a lot of (college football) games but I never really had a favorite because that wasn't really my thing at the time," Dell said. "It was track."

He began participating in track when he was six years old and his focus shifted to basketball at age 10 or 11. The sport that will stay with Dell into college and perhaps beyond, however, is football.


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