Moving the Chains with . . . Western Illinois WR Dennis Houston

Dennis Houston (10) has been a big-play receiver in the Western Illinois offense. (photo courtesy

Though his surname is that of another famous Texas city, Dennis Houston hasn’t forgotten his hometown roots.

“That’s my home,” the San Antonio native said. “Whenever I go back, it’s all love and the people there embrace me and I love them back.

“As far as football went, it’s a competitive town. It’s more of a football town than people give it credit for. People think of Houston and Dallas when it comes to the big football teams, and rightfully so, but there’s a lot of talent in San Antonio.”

Add Houston to that list of talent. Houston leads the FCS in receiving yards (687), ranks third in receiving yards per game (114.5) and in receptions per game (8.2). His five touchdowns tie him for tenth on the national leader board.

Get to know WIU receiver Dennis Houston in our Prairie State Pigskin Moving the Chains Q&A.


Hometown: San Antonio, Tex.

High School: Earl Warren

Statistically, you’re ranked among national receiving leaders. What does that mean to you?

It’s a reflection of the time that I’ve put in and all the chemistry that (WIU quarterback) Connor (Sampson) and I have developed over the years. It’s all coming together at the right time.

What is the best part of your game as a receiver?

It’s pretty complete as a whole from route running to positioning the hands to blocking. I’m all about whatever it takes to win and whatever my coaches ask me to do.

What is the area that you need to improve on the most if you’re going to get a chance to play at the next level?

I guess it would have to be using my hands more going against press coverage at the line of scrimmage. I’m confident in my feet, but improving on my hands. I’d say I’ve come a long way with that. I worked on it all off-season.

Have you been given any indication from pro scouts on what more they would like to see from you this season?

They’d like to see me be more explosive with the ball in my hands after the catch. With yards after catch, making people miss.

WIU fell just short in its upset bid against No. 7 Southern Illinois in overtime. The potential game-winning two-point play went to you. What was the plan?

The play was to give me the ball in space and to give me an opportunity to make a play. I agree completely with my coach’s decision to go for it and the play call to ultimately put the game in my hands. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the play. That’s something I’ll learn from.

They (SIU) made the play. They made a helluva of play.

Speaking of plays, your 2019 touchdown in which you leaped over a Southern Illinois defender went viral with a feature on ESPN’s “You Got Mossed”. What did that mean to you?

It was surreal honestly to have Randy Moss talking about my play and giving me compliments. I grew up studying his tape and trying to take things from his game. It was surreal for sure.

(Houston catch starts at :49-second mark of video)

For people from Illinois who don’t quite understand how big Texas high school football is, how would you explain it?

When you think of Friday night lights, that’s what it is and everything that comes with it. The competition. The expectations that come with it as well. It’s the athletes that make Texas high school football special.

It’s serious in Texas.

You mentioned the concept of Friday night lights. Have you read the book, seen the movie or the TV show?

I’ve seen the movie; I haven’t seen the TV show. I know a little bit about Odessa and Boobie Miles. Actually one of my coaches was in the show and he gave me a little bit of inside scoop about that stuff and how accurate it actually was. I like the movie.

Being from San Antonio, what can you tell us about the Alamo?

I’ve never really been there, but driven past it a couple of times. I know the significance of it and of course I learned about it in school. It’s actually not as big (of a building) as it’s expected to be.

With it being October and Halloween coming up, what was your favorite costume as a kid?

I never really took pride in dressing up and all of that. I was more interested in getting the candy. I guess I’d go with Michael Myers because that’s the mask I’d wear.

What was your favorite Halloween candy to get?

It has to be Snickers, some type of chocolate.

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