Eric Decker, WR #87
Hometown: Cold Spring, MN
Experience: 3 years
The people of Denver are on a Rocky Mountain High over Peyton Manning, but they can’t forget about the men he has to throw the football to.
A pair of third-year wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are Manning’s merry men, and while it’s easy to say Thomas could be great—given his physical attributes of size, strength and speed—Decker is close to achieving greatness already.
Decker’s roots are in Cold Spring, Minnesota, where he attended Rocori High School and played football, basketball and baseball, each of which he earned all-conference honors. The native Minnesotan stayed in state for college, heading 78 miles southeast to the University of Minnesota to become one of the greatest Golden Gophers of all time. He set career receiving records at the school with 227 catches and 3,119 yards, while also playing college baseball at an extremely high level, twice being drafted into the MLB by Milwaukee (2008) and Minnesota (2009).
Decker stuck with his first love though, and after injury-shortened junior and senior seasons, he was selected in the third round––87th overall––of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.
The 6’3” 218 pound receiver didn’t see much game time in his rookie season, playing mostly on special teams as the Broncos’ kick returner. He averaged 25.3 yards per return in 2010, while also getting some playing time as a receiver after Thomas went down with an injury, catching six footballs for 106 yards and one touchdown.
2011 was much better to Decker. As the number two receiving option for Tim Tebow in the Mile High City, he received 44 passes for 612 yards while leading the Broncos in touchdown catches with eight.
This season is shaping up to be his best yet. Yes, Decker is set for a breakout season. The three-year veteran has only caught passes from Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow up until this point—not exactly world-renowned quarterbacks. Now he’s got four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning tossing him the pigskin, so production should skyrocket.
In fact, it already has.
Decker has been Manning’s go-to guy so far this preseason with eight receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns scored, each of which came against San Francisco in week three.
On the first touchdown, the receiver ran a comeback route, going five yards deep into the end zone and coming back to the ball Manning had already released with perfect timing. The score came all too easy as the defensive back had no chance of stopping the completion.
The second score was just as easy, or at least it would have been if Decker didn’t bobble the ball. He started in the slot position—between the tight end and “X” receiver wide—and ran a post to the corner of the end zone where Manning’s pass dropped in. He didn’t secure the catch right away, but eventually did and got both feet in bounds for the touchdown.
He also sat out of week four against the Arizona Cardinals, as did nearly every starter for John Fox’s team.
Decker has been nearly unstoppable so far this preseason and is clearly on top of his game. Possibly even more important, he’s been like a puppy dog, following around his quarterback on the sidelines during every preseason game, undoubtedly learning nuances and gaining a rapport.
Yes, if there’s one Broncos receiver that’s bound to enjoy a breakout season, it’s Eric Decker, and he’s already shown growth at every twist and turn at the NFL level.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.