Decker had 84 catches for 1,074 yards and seven scores. Decker was tied for sixth in the nation and led the Big Ten with 10.0 receptions per game in 2008. He was fourth in the Big Ten and 41st in the country with 89.0 receiving yards per game.
Decker, who is also a three-time academic All-Big Ten selection and was a CoSIDA/Academic All-District choice in 2008, ranks first all-time at Minnesota in career receptions with 227 and in receiving yards with 3,144.
Decker talked about his injury and getting ready for the NFL Draft.
(Where are you at as far as playing in the fall?)
I’m going to get some surgery March 15 and get my plate and screw removed. Dr. Anderson said by June I’ll be no restrictions working out and by fall camp I’ll be 100 percent.
(Have you talked to anybody with this type of injury?)
I have. Brandon Stokely gave me a call this past fall and kind of talked to me a little bit about the process and how it’s a tougher injury just because it’s a long timeline. But you make a full recovery. He actually had a better career after he had the injury. That gave me a lot of motivation, and understanding that things happen for a reason. You’ve just got to take it like it is and get better.
(Do you feel cheated?)
It’s hard to, I guess, understand it and digest it because what happened is I just made a cut. I didn’t get hit. I didn’t fall in a weird position. And that’s the end of your college career. Like I said, things happen for a reason and I’m making the best of it.
(Your experience at the combine? What are they saying about your ability at the next level?)
I got an opportunity last night to check out the train station. That’s an interesting process. I’ve got some meetings tonight. But I guess the consistent message has been that the injury has become a non-issue. They felt like I had a consistent career at Minnesota. Good production. No character issues. And they all wish me the best of luck. It’s hard to say if they give you a place in the draft or a grade because it’s such a crapshoot when that time comes.
(Did the injury make you second-guess your decision to go with football instead of baseball?)
Not at all. I wake up and I love football. I’m fortunate to say that when I wake up I love what I do, and that’s play football, preparing for football. I’ll get back. I’ll get my opportunity this fall and I’m excited about it.
(What position did you play in baseball?)
I played center field.
(Do you emulate anyone in the NFL?)
I try to emulate my game after Larry Fitzgerald (Jr.). He’s a Minnesota boy. I got an opportunity to work out with him this past summer. We’re comparable in size. He’s one of those guys that’s a workout freak. He’s going to work harder than anybody. And he’s an elite receiver. He gets his production on the field, and off the field he’s a class act. On and off the field he acts like a professional and that’s the way I want to be when I get to the next level.
(Enjoy film study?)
I enjoy it a lot. I think over the last couple years, I’ve had a good relationship with my quarterback. So I went into a lot of the meetings with him and our offensive coordinator. I got to understand the philosophy of our offense and understand how to read coverages and how to make adjustments when you see certain things. I really enjoy it because it gives you an advantage.
(How much of an honor to be a two-time captain in college?)
It was definitely an honor. Being a Minnesota kid, playing for your university, representing your community, your home state. Being a two-time captain meant a lot to me. To know that my peers named me captain, named me a leader, you can’t replace that.
(What’s your greatest strength on the field?)
I’d say being a bigger receiver, being physical in the run game and in the pass game. Using my body to position in and out of routes. Going up for the football.
(What have you been able to do to prepare for the combine? How much can you do?)
I’ve been working on my upper body strength. I’m doing the 225 bench tomorrow. Getting out of the boot three weeks ago, I can do a lot more movement stuff on my feet, more weight bearing things. We have this Ultra G machine, which is a treadmill with a bubble around it. I’ve been able to pick up my walking pace and do some movement stuff to kind of open up my walking gait again and get that normal path. It seems like every week, every day, I’ve been doing more activity from here on out.
(So you will bench tomorrow?)
I will. Yep.
(Any running events?)
No running events.
(What teams have you met with so far?)
I met with about six teams, position coaches. I met with Cleveland, New Orleans, Seattle… man, it’s all kind of clustered together. A couple other ones that I can’t recall right now, but some great organizations, some great coaches. Kansas City was one.
(Are the Vikings on the schedule?)
Vikings? Maybe tonight. I got in late last night because of being at the hospital getting MRIs and stuff.
(Are you a possession guy or a stretch the field guy?)
I’d say a combination. I feel like I can get down the field and stretch the field and also my strength is route running. Being able to find open holes, set defensive backs up and get open underneath too.
(How did college baseball help you become a better receiver?)
I got the opportunity to play two years of baseball in college. I think a lot of it transitions over. The biggest thing for me was the mental aspect. Baseball being kind of that roller coaster, when you fail three out of ten times you’re still a hall of famer. Understanding how to control your emotions and being consistent with that. And also I think the physical attributes. Hand-eye coordination at the plate. Center field. Being able to track a ball over the shoulder and track a ball in the gaps. And also just the basics of running, stealing bases.
(What are you hoping to accomplish at the combine?)
I hope I go away with a good message of being able introduce myself and sell myself to teams. From a character standpoint, from the X’s and O’s receiver-type guy, and also show my strength in the bench.
(What type of player is a team getting?)
They’re getting a durable, reliable guy that has been through a lot of transition in college and understands how to quickly adapt to a philosophy offensively. And get on the field as a physical receiver, isn’t afraid to block, getting in the box and block some linebackers or whoever it may be. And also make a big play when it’s needed. Third down in a critical situation, go up and catch the ball when it’s needed to be made.
(How did your time in college prepare you for the NFL?)
Just matured as a person and just matured as a football player. I got bigger. I understand how to watch film. I understand how to study defenses and how to run routes. Everything you learn you just get better at and you keep hammering away at your craft.
(How tough was it to have all the changes in the offense in college?)
It was difficult. When you go from a running style offense, to a spread offense, to a pro-style offense, there’s different terminology, different philosophies, different styles of coaching, I was able to adapt to it and still be successful. For me, it’s just more hard work, but that’s what I love about it, putting the work in and seeing the results on Saturdays and Sundays.
(What are you hoping to get on the bench press?)
Well we’ll find out tomorrow. Hopefully a good number.
(Where did you train for the combine?)
I was in Phoenix, Ariz., and trained at Athletes' Performance.
(Did you work on everything there?)
We did a lot of upper body strength and just overall balancing stuff. I also got to work with Roy Green, who’s a receiver, defensive back in the NFL. Catching drills, mainly for me. As receivers, I was able to watch film, watch them run routes, get tips that he gave to them and just kind of digest that. Also I did a lot of my therapy there. Working on my foot, getting that strength back, getting my flexibility, my range of motion and just making sure I’m on the right track to recovery.
(How much did that help you for here?)
Definitely I think it’s another stepping stone to make me a better player. I think I had a good foundation in college, through my experience, through different coaches I was with. And then just to be with those type of athletes, elite
athletes at API, the best trainers, I thought. The best physical therapist. To have those resources just kind of gives you that edge.
(How long were you there?)
I was there for approximately seven, eight weeks. I went a little early with my surgery to start my rehab. A regular day was waking up at 7:30, getting breakfast, going through physical therapy, doing strengthening, regeneration, flexibility, range of motion stuff, watching some film, doing some receiver stuff. Taking an hour nap or hour to relax, coming back and doing it all again in the afternoon. We’d get done about 6, 6:30 p.m.
(So you worked with Roy Green at API?)
(So it wasn’t just getting ready for drills specifically at the combine?)
(Who would you compare yourself to as an NFL player?)
I would say Larry Fitzgerald. I was talking about that earlier. I was saying he’s a Minnesota kid. He’s comparable in size. His work ethic and the way he handles himself on the field. It’s unbelievable.
(Getting separation at the pro level, how important is that?)
I think the biggest thing is just setting things up. If you can run a good curl route, guys are going to be wanting to sit on that and you can run by them. Just using the smarts and watching film and taking what their weaknesses are exploiting them.