Detroit — You might find it difficult to relate to an NFL player, particularly one who just agreed to a contract that could pay him $70 million over the next five years.
But when Detroit Lions offensive tackle Taylor Decker gets talking about his family, it quickly reminds you how much the 6-foot-7, 318-pounder is just another guy who happens to make his living playing a game.
When Decker found out his representation and the Lions had reached terms on an extension — just three days after opening negotiations and minutes before a scheduled team meeting — he pleaded for an opportunity to let his parents know before news of the agreement leaked through the media.
“Those were the two people I thought should hear it straight from my mouth,” Decker said during a Wednesday afternoon video call. “I told them the other day, a couple days before when we had started negotiations, and I wanted to be the one to tell them.
“My mom started immediately bawling, crying, and I started crying,” Decker said. “I had to be at a team meeting in four minutes, so it was quick, emotional and then I called my mom and dad again today, right after I actually signed it (on Wednesday). Yeah, I mean, I’m the youngest of five, and I’m sure for my siblings and our parents to see their baby boy and their baby brother accomplish something like that, I hope it was cool for them.”
Decker’s close bond with his family isn’t new information. While at Ohio State, before his final game at Michigan, Decker spoke at a senior event and said his only goal in football and life were to make his family proud. He echoed those sentiments again on Wednesday.
“I texted my dad last night, I always just wanted to make him proud,” Decker said, choking up. “And I hope they are. I was able to tell my mom and try to dry up those tears before I walked into the team meeting.”
Decker also noted his father, Ron, is recovering from a recent neck surgery to repair a disc issue.
“His voice is all raspy,” Decker said. “He can barely talk much, but it was — the outpouring of emotion was definitely yesterday, and today was just, you know, it’s a cool thing.”
It wasn’t always clear this deal would get done. All offseason, Decker was optimistic, but even-keeled about the reality of the situation. The Lions had made it clear to him they liked him as a player, but with the ongoing pandemic, and the potential salary cap ramifications attached to that, it added a cloud of uncertainty.
“I guess I was at peace with the fact that I was healthy, feeling good going into the season, and then, again, there was just the whole unknown for myself and the organization of how are contract negotiations going to be going because of all the unknowns, the unprecedented COVID quarantine, the protocols,” Decker explained. “There were just a million things going on, so those were things outside of my control. I can control my training, I can control getting enough rest tonight, I can control if something was nagging, taking care of it, so you’re healthy going into the season, healthy going into camp. And that’s why throughout camp I was just trying to focus on playing well, practicing well.”
Buried beneath that attitude, Decker also made it clear he’s quietly maintained a personal goal of playing for one team during his NFL career. And while he’s a long way from accomplishing that feat, this is a big step in that direction.
“I told (general manager) Bob (Quinn) that the other day,” Decker said. “That’s just huge to me. This city has become my home and I’m part of this community. To have the outpouring of love and support from the fans, from my friends, family and obviously the organization to want to sign me to an extension is huge. I just appreciate everybody believing in me and trusting me be their left tackle.”
As for any immediate plans for his newfound wealth, Decker’s response is likely to come off as relatable to many of the fans who watch him play.
“Everyone keeps asking me, you know, ‘What are you going to buy?’ and I don’t really have anything planned,” Decker said. “I mean, coach might not like this, but I might get myself a nice bottle of whiskey at some point. Other than that, I don’t really want for much. In season, you work all day, you go home. As long as my air conditioning (works) — maybe my air conditioning bill will go up a little bit, I’ll keep it a little colder in the house. But, yeah, I just go to work, go home and try to get some sleep, eat some good food.”
Cheer to that.