BIRMINGHAM — Nathaniel Dell has a new nickname.
Just like the national convenience store chain, these days, Dell’s Alabama A&M football teammates are calling him “7-Eleven.”
Well, apparently the first location Dell has staked out is off Arkadelphia Road at Birmingham’s Legion Field, and the grand opening was the 77th Magic City Classic.
Dell put together a breakout performance as Alabama A&M topped longtime rival Alabama State 27-10 Saturday afternoon in a SWAC East contest.
“Like my teammates say, just like 7-Eleven, I’m always open,” Dell said.
In the Magic City Classic, that statement was true.
Dell, a freshman from Daytona Beach, Fla., caught six passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
“Our guy is a playmaker,” Alabama A&M quarterback Aqeel Glass. “Get the ball in his hands, and more times than not, he’s going have a chance to break a big play.”
Alabama State (2-5, 1-2 in SWAC) learned that lesson the hard way.
Dell flashed his speed and athleticism early in the second quarter when slipped behind Alabama State’s secondary and caught a pass in the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown.
The freshman, who only was playing in his third collegiate game because of an injury, struck again in the fourth quarter when he caught a short pass from Glass and sprinted 81 yards down the sideline for a touchdown that stretched the Alabama A&M (4-4, 3-2) lead to ten.
“To have a game like this, on a stage likes this, that’s what it’s all about,” Dell said. “These are the kind of games you sign up for.”
Alabama A&M never trailed.
After Alabama State’s Talesin Farmer rushed for a 1-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7 apiece, the Bulldogs responded in the third quarter with a 56-yard rushing touchdown from Jordan Bentley.
Bentley led Alabama A&M with 91 rushing yards on eight carries.
A few minutes later, Dell delivered his second receiving touchdown, and then Alabama A&M leaned on its power running game to run the clock down.
Glass threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Burke in the final minutes.
Glass finished with 322 passing yards and three touchdowns, completing 17 of 30 attempts with no interceptions.
“Since the day I got here, the one thing I’ve heard more than anyone else is just how important the Classic is,” first-year Alabama A&M coach Connell Maynor said. “This game is a big deal, so to see our players celebrate this victory tonight is huge. I’m proud for our team.”
Dell was selected as the game’s offensive MVP, and Hamilton was the defensive MVP.
“As a senior, with this being my last Classic, I definitely wanted to go out on a high note,” Hamilton said. “I’d say we definitely did that. Celebrating a big win like this is what it’s all about.”