KFFL.com draft analyst Cory J. Bonini recently conducted the following interview with Michigan State Spartans wide receiver and 2011 NFL Draft prospect Mark Dell.
Have you reached out to any NFL players about the draft process? If so, what advice were you given?
I'm actually back at school right now, just staying in shape and doing all those things leading up until the draft. I'm actually here working out with Javon Ringer, who plays for the Titans, and two days ago Blair White was here - he plays for the Colts.
You know, those guys were telling me, personally, just enjoy the process ... enjoy everything about it. Talk to as many people as I can and then go from there, but I mean it's definitely a long, grueling process. They just gave me little pointers about the workouts, and I talked to them a lot more about the process leading up to the Combine and what to expect, what type of things they look for and what should I do to try to sell myself ... usually little hints like those to help me out.
What NFL teams have you met with, and do you have any upcoming workouts planned that you can talk about?
I've talked to a few teams, but I haven't gotten any workouts yet, officially. I've been talking to my agent and everything, and I should start to get some maybe in early April.
To many, you project as a possession receiver in the NFL because of your routes and hands. Is there a wide receiver that you try to model your game after?
Well, the one receiver that I look up to is, of course, the great Jerry Rice. I felt like his tenacity and the way he attacked the game, game in and game out, and the way he was able to run a route at first quarter to fourth quarter was amazing to me. I felt like he was a game-changer, and I feel like if I can do half as good as Jerry Rice that I'll be pretty good at the next level.
Me being a possession receiver, I mean, I look at all things. I never really want to put a lid over my game. I feel like I'm a player that can do a lot of different things. I feel like I can play in the slot, play at wide receiver ... I can do anything, so I don't like putting a cap on my game.
Being a possession receiver is also not a bad thing, so there are good things that come out of that. Like I said, I never want to put a lid on my game and say I'm this particular kind of receiver, because there are a lot of things that I can do well, you know. I don't want to stick myself into one category. It's definitely a good thing. It isn't a bad thing.
I understand you grew up in Farmington Hills, Mich. and starred at Harris High.
I'm actually from Detroit. I grew up in Detroit and I made the transition over in middle school. Like I said, I grew up in Detroit and I made the transition over to Farmington Hills once I found out a lot about the program and the tradition that they had there. Me and my parents felt like it was the best thing for me, and it kind of led me to where I am now, going to Michigan State and everything like that. It was definitely a great thing, great program.
Did you grow up a Detroit Lions fan? They are in the market for a wideout with your skill set; what do you think of extending your playing career in the state of Michigan?
Honestly man, I don't really have a preference. It's an honor for any team to take a liking to me and want me to play for their program with their team, so I don't have a particular team.
I'll become a fan of the Lions. Growing up in Detroit it's kind of hard not to become a fan of the hometown team. The Lions, I heard also they are looking, like you said, for some receivers, so it would be great to play at home. Being close to home, family really wouldn't have to do too much to come to games, just come down the street, so it wouldn't be too bad.
What is your favorite memory of your time at Michigan State (on or off the field)?
I'd have to say my favorite memory would be winning the Big Ten championship. I felt like throughout my college career we always seemed to get so close. I remember the closest time was my sophomore year. We were pretty much neck and neck going up to the championship with Penn State, vying for the Big Ten championship, and we didn't end it on a good note. We lost at Penn State, and my senior year we were able to win the Big Ten championship at Penn State.
It was a nice thing to go out like that as a senior, seeing as that the seniors before me in my sophomore year weren't able to accomplish that and my senior year we were able to beat Penn State, which is a good team, in a very difficult place to play at, so I felt like it was a highlight for us holding up that trophy, being the Big Ten champion.
What aspect of your game do you feel like you need to improve the most?
I'd say concentration and my blocking. I feel like growing up being a basketball player pretty much my whole life, and I started playing football in high school, you really don't know the technique and the little things that count until you get to the college level or the pro level. The concentration, my first two years, starting as a true freshman, I feel like I had a few miscellaneous drops ... not catches I normally can't make, just concentration, me catching the ball and looking up the field too early.
You know, just little things like that a lot of people take for granted. I feel like that's something I've made a big leap in, a big improvement in, this year. It's something that will continue to get better for me. Also, my blocking - going back to the little things that help out - I feel like blocking is something that Michigan State really installed in me. I really play with passion.
I feel like I came a long way from my true freshman year, but there's always room for improvement with blocking. It's definitely a tough thing to attack the defenders and be selfless, blocking for greater good, the running backs, and hopefully they make a good play.
You experienced the fighting incident in 2009; discuss what you have learned from the situation.
Man, I don't want you to take it the wrong way, but that was probably one of the best things that happened to me, because not only did it humble me, it really showed me that the game of football is not a right it's a privilege. It's definitely something that can be taken away.
My time off with the suspension really showed me - watching my team - I didn't even make it to the bowl game, but watching the team from home was something that really hurt me and hurt my family ... to have to go through that and see me in that light. If you ask anybody that knows me I'm not that type of guy. To be in the light, to be portrayed as some type of criminal or hoodlum or something like that, it just hurt seeing my family have to see me go through something like that.
It definitely was a humbling experience. It taught me to really appreciate the game more, and it made me a better person.
Talk a little about your generosity with Major Hester and how that situation came about.
My dad was at home and I was at school, and it was kinda funny that we just happened to read the paper. I read the paper now and then, but I just happened to read this one and seen an article about a guy that was scheduled to have heart surgery and postponed it so he could watch our game. It was actually the Friday before we stepped on the field for the game. Later that night my dad called me and asked if I had time to read the paper and I told him yeah, but he brought it attention and we were like 'that's crazy someone would do something like that.'
I was talking to him (Major Hester) and wanted to do something for him. During the season it's hard - not really hard but just tougher since I rarely come home during the season. I pretty much spend all my time up at school, so once the season was over and I had a little downtime I felt it was a good thing for me to try to show my appreciation for it - somebody pretty much putting their life on the line to see us play. Michigan State meant that much to him where he was willing to put his life on the line to see us play. I felt like the least I could do was do a little something for him to show that his actions didn't go unnoticed. I gave him a ball and a picture, signed, and I felt like it was a good thing. He enjoyed it, and it came as a surprise.
Have you two kept in touch?
I talked to him off and on a little afterward, but this whole draft process kinda took a little toll on our communication, but I try to reach out to him when I can.
Has this draft process been overwhelming at times?
Nah, not really. I wouldn't say that. I feel like the main thing is you're kind of in the dark about a lot of things. You won't know until they call your name. Some teams may like you and just because they like you it doesn't mean they'll be able to pick you up, so it's just a waiting process. The only thing you can do is stay in shape trying to perfect your craft and work hard. That's just what I've been trying to do ... spend time with my family and friends and just making sure when the lockout is done and everything else is ready I'm on the best of my game.
How do you relieve stress and spend your free time?
Honestly, man, it don't take much to please me. I can honestly just sit home; most of the time I'm at home with my family, my little brother, something like that and just watching ESPN, watching sports, and just taking it easy. I'm always on my feet working, working out. If it's not working out it's catching, if it's not catching then I'm trying to do something to improve my game. If I'm not doing anything with football, I'm probably just somewhere, chilling on the couch, watching SportsCenter, watching the game, spending time with my family.
Do you play fantasy football?
I haven't played it, but I'm familiar with it.
Is it something you could see yourself getting into down the road?
Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.
Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.