Decker and Triplett selected in NFL Draft

Simoni Lawrence signed a contract with the St. Louis Rams after going undrafted.

by Max Sanders

The long wait between the end of the football season and the NFL draft paid off for two Gophers, as wide receiver Eric Decker and linebacker Nate Triplett heard their names called during the three-day draft held in New York City. The weekend marked the first time Minnesota has had multiple players selected in a draft since 2006, when four Gophers were selected. Rated among the top 10 receivers by various scouting Web sites, Decker was chosen by the Denver Broncos with the 23rd selection of the third round. âÄúIâÄôm extremely excited about the opportunity the Broncos are giving me,âÄù Decker said in a statement. âÄúI canâÄôt wait to get to Denver, start learning the playbook and get to work. The Broncos are a great organization and IâÄôm really proud to be a part of it.âÄù The receiver racked up the accolades in college, finishing his career as the programâÄôs all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and 100-yard games . âÄúI couldn’t be more proud or pleased for Eric Decker,âÄù said Gophers head coach Tim Brewster, who was a tight ends coach for two seasons in Denver. âÄúHe’s going to a wonderful city, a tremendous organization and really good people in Denver; and they got themselves one heck of a wide receiver.âÄù While Decker was projected to be taken in the early to middle rounds, TriplettâÄôs selection was more of a surprise. A linebacker who started one game before his senior season, Triplett was widely projected to go undrafted though perhaps sign with a team as a free agent. That all changed when the Minnesota Vikings used their fifth-round pick to grab Triplett. âÄú[Vikings head coach] Brad Childress was on the phone âĦ and he said, âÄòAll right, well, youâÄôre a Viking now. Congratulations,âÄô âÄù Triplett said. âÄúI said thanks. I hadnâÄôt exactly planned out a speech or what to say, so it was kind of [a] âÄòThanks for taking me, time to get to workâÄô kind of thing.âÄù Triplett watched the draft in his home town of Delano, Minn. For obvious reasons, his family was happy Minnesota chose him. âÄúMy family are all big Vikings fans,âÄù Triplett said. âÄúMy brother is a die-hard Vikings fan, and he said it would be hard for him to wear that other jersey, especially if the Packers or Bears [chose me].âÄù Triplett was in Minneapolis on Saturday for the GophersâÄô spring game, and Brewster said the team yelled with excitement upon hearing the news of TriplettâÄôs selection. âÄúOur team was just so proud and excited,âÄù Brewster said. âÄú[IâÄôm] very proud of the homegrown young man from Delano, Minnesota, staying at home and playing for the Vikings. You talk about a dream come true.âÄù While Decker and Triplett heard their names called, two other seniors, linebackers Lee Campbell and Simoni Lawrence, went undrafted. Shortly after the draft, however, Lawrence signed a free-agent contract with the St. Louis Rams. Punter Blake Haudan, who started the final 11 games last season after not playing a game his first three years, also signed as a free agent with the Carolina Panthers. âÄúI cannot wait to go in next week and earn a spot in the NFL; my dream is almost there,âÄù Lawrence said in a statement. âÄúIt reminds me of coming into Minnesota, and they were 1-11 the year before I got there. Hopefully we have the same turnaround in St. Louis like we created at Minnesota with coach Brewster.” -John Hageman contributed to this report.