Decker still sees football as best option

“That’s what I care about: what I can control and what I can do. The rest will work itself out.”

Asking a boy what he wants to be when he grows up invariably comes back with the same answers: astronaut, firefighter or professional athlete. For University of Minnesota senior Eric Decker , that childhood dream is becoming a reality. Last week, Decker was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 27th round of the MLB draft âÄî but Decker is not done dreaming yet. He has hopes for another dream in another sport. Decker said he was excited about being drafted by his favorite team, but he and the Twins know that the Gophers center fielder âÄî who is also the wide receiver for Gophers football âÄî may never step foot on the diamond. âÄúThey still gave me a chance, and weâÄôre going to work things out and see what happens, but my focus right now is definitely working to get ready for football,âÄù he said. âÄúThey understand that, which is nice.âÄù Decker possesses the speed and strength many scouts look for in an outfielder. While he has tried keeping baseball as an option, itâÄôs clear he wants to catch touchdown passes more than fly balls. âÄú[Baseball] is a great opportunity if football doesnâÄôt work out. I think itâÄôd have to be some sort of feeling inside that said, âÄòI donâÄôt know if I want to play football maybe IâÄôll play baseball,âÄôâÄù he said. âÄúI canâÄôt decide that now; thatâÄôs down the road where it needs to be.âÄù Following a record-setting season as wide receiver for the Gophers in 2008 , Decker decided to come back for another football season. And he said being drafted hasnâÄôt changed his decision at all. Just more than a week after losing to Louisiana State in the NCAA regional tournament in baseball, he is back on the field practicing for the upcoming football season. DeckerâÄôs .319 batting average in 2009 is solid by many standards, but pales in comparison to his football statistics. In 2008, Decker caught 84 passes to break his own school record of 67 from 2007. His 1,074 receiving yards were the second highest total in school history and helped him earn consensus First-Team All-Big Ten honors. Decker also was among 10 finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the best receiver in the nation each season. The honors may be great, but Decker said he tries to focus on what he can control. Decker said he tries not to think about the possibility of winning awards, despite going in as a top national receiver this season. âÄúThose things are great honors, but theyâÄôre hearsay right now until you perform on the field and thatâÄôs the only thing you can control,âÄù he said. âÄúThatâÄôs what I care about: what I can control and what I can do. The rest will work itself out.âÄù Regardless of the outcome of this football season (and possible baseball season), Decker has already joined an elite group of Gophers athletes. He is only the third athlete to letter in football and be drafted in the MLB since 1966. Through all the praise and glory, Decker has stayed true to his small-town roots. He said growing up in Cold Spring, Minn ., has helped him remain humble and a âÄúregular person.âÄù Decker tries to go home every weekend in the summer to visit family and high school friends and escape into peace. He said he lives near a chain of lakes, and he finds peace fishing with his dad. While Decker enjoys getting away from everything for a while, he said he is fortunate to have the opportunity to excel in football and baseball. Looking toward the future, he hopes to continue to take advantage of that opportunity. âÄúIâÄôd like to see myself succeeding in whatever sport I pick,âÄù Decker said about his future. âÄúI canâÄôt choose which one it would be at this time because I still have my senior season to play.âÄù Following his record-setting season in 2008, Decker would have likely been drafted in the NFL, but the decision to return for a final season was his own. âÄúFor me it was a case of what fits in my lifestyle more and what experiences I want,âÄù he said. âÄúPlaying in a new stadium, being captain of the football team, thatâÄôs something I didnâÄôt want to give up for anything. Money canâÄôt buy that; itâÄôs priceless.âÄù The baseball and football coaching staffs were supportive of Decker, he said, and he felt no pressure from anyone to return. He said he has turned to the baseball coaching staff for guidance about the draft and has avoided conversations about his future with head football coach Tim Brewster , who has tried to keep him confident throughout the season. As he looks for guidance down the road, Decker said he has a few options outside of his family and coaches. Decker said he has Twins catcher Joe MauerâÄôs phone number and would be comfortable calling him for some guidance when the time comes. Mauer was a standout in baseball, basketball (which Decker also played in high school) and football at Cretin-Derham Hall . Despite receiving a scholarship offer to play football for Florida State, Mauer chose baseball and has found success on the diamond. Decker may be leaning toward the sport Mauer turned down, but he said he thinks Mauer, or any former Gophers player in the NFL, could help with his decision. Decker said he has been a Twins and Vikings fan since he was a little kid, but he admitted to also cheering for the Cowboys when he was younger. Referencing Mauer and LeBron James, who grew up in Ohio, Decker said it would be great to play either sport in his home state. He said he recognized his potential to play either sport professionally after the 2008 football season, but Decker isnâÄôt ready to look toward a professional future just yet. He said he is excited to start the football season with a more experienced squad and new offensive and defensive coordinators. After two seasons of baseball and three seasons of football, Decker said he cannot pinpoint any best or worst experience, but he has enjoyed creating everlasting relationships with his teammates. Looking back on fortunate success as a collegiate athlete, Decker described himself as simply, âÄúA small town kid living his dream and trying to enjoy every moment I get because you donâÄôt know when it could be your last.âÄù