The 2nd week of NFL free agency has given Minnesota football fans plenty to think about, especially with the team and free agent RB LaDainian Tomlinson feeling each other out.
But, with the University of Minnesota holding its pro day on Wednesday, Minnesota football fans are also interested in another player who will soon join an NFL team – former Gophers WR Eric Decker.
The Cold Spring, MN native had an impressive 4-year career at the University of Minnesota, finishing with 220 receptions for 3,000 yards and 24 TDs in 41 games played. He has a knack for getting to the ball and does a nice job of positioning his body and adjusting in the air to get his hands on the football.
But his time playing college football didn’t come without adversity. Injuries slowed him in 2008 and ended his season in 2009 after just 5 games.
The foot injury that caused him to miss much of the 2009 season also disallowed him from participating in most of the workouts in front of NFL coaches and scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine, though he was able to participate in the interview and psychological testing portions of the Combine.
While Decker said he was happy with his interviews and off-field testing, he was disappointed in his bench press results. So, during Wednesday’s University of Minnesota pro day, Decker participated in the bench press again. And he improved from 15 reps at the Combine to 19 at the pro day.
He also spoke with the media on Thursday.
“I’m making the best of where I’m at, and that’s getting better with my therapy,” Decker responded when asked about his foot. “I told myself I’m going to make therapy my sport and be the best I can be at it.”
Decker said he has a couple of medical appointments on the horizon and that he should be back to full speed by late May or early June, perhaps allowing him to participate in minicamps with whatever teams drafts him in April.
Speaking of the draft, Decker was also asked how he thinks his injuries have affected his draft stock.
“I don’t know, I don’t try to get into that stuff,” the 6-2, 215-pound WR said. “I’m just trying to work and have fun with it because this has been a fun process. I’ve been trying to live my dream and doing everything I can to get better.
“Wherever I may go, I’m going to take the opportunity and I think that team’s going to be happy because I’m going to work every day as hard as I can and make a difference.”
All of the injury business and Combine results set aside, the biggest advantage Decker has is on-field production.
“His tape is his resume,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said on Thursday.
Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman also had a positive review of the Gophers standout WR.
“Decker was very productive,” Spielman said, noting that he still led the team in receptions and yards despite missing much of the season. “I think it hurt a little bit when they lost such a key playmaker for them down here. A character kid, has all the tools to be a very productive player in this league.”
Notes on Decker:
-- Decker was asked to give a self-scouting report. Here’s what he said: “They’re going to get a guy who is consistent on the field and off the field. No character issues. A guy who’s going to work every day to be the best. On the field, a guy who can run good routes, a guy who’s tough, uses his body, high-points the football, will block in the running game. And a guy off the field who is going to help out his community and do the best he can to make everyone around him better.”
-- Drafted twice by MLB baseball teams, including the Twins in 2009, Decker said that baseball was out of the picture. He did say his baseball experience with the Gophers was one he’ll always cherish, but football is his passion and focus.
On his experience preparing for the NFL draft: “The Combine was quite an experience; I enjoyed every moment of that. But just coming back here (for the pro day), the biggest thing was to see everybody again. We’ve been through so much and these seniors that are working out, I’m so proud of them because they’ve been brothers to me for my career and I’m happy to see them pursue their dream as well.”
-- Asked about NFL WRs he looks up to, Decker referenced Jerry Rice because of his work ethic and Larry Fitzgerald, Jr., another MN native.
On the “injury prone” label being applied to him: “I think they (NFL teams) have (applied the label). But when I look at it, the last two injuries I’ve had have been freak accidents. Last year, in 2008, I got rolled up on from behind and it was just kind of a freak thing. Then this year, I didn’t even get hit. It was a non-contact injury and I was done with my career in college. It’s been tough. I’ve taken some hits, I’ve stuck in games and I don’t think the injury prone, I wouldn’t label myself as injury prone.”