Grandparents look back on U of M star Decker's career
by Ken Haggerty
Eric Decker is known for a lot of things.
He's mostly known as a star wide receiver for the University of Minnesota. Decker, whose senior season ended prematurely in Columbus, Ohio on October 24 with a foot injury requiring surgery, will leave the Golden Gophers holding the school's all-time records for receptions (227), receiving yards (3,119) and single season receptions (84). All-Big Ten as a junior, he was a pre-season and mid-season All-American pick by many.
Some people know Decker as a star of the Gopher baseball team who was drafted by the Twins in the 27th round last year.
Others know Decker as a bright student at the "U" who already has his degree and is working toward a Masters.
But to Jerry and Marian Weber, who live about seven miles north of Cannon Falls in Douglas Township, Decker is known as an easy going and mellow grandson, one of nineteen grandchildren who, despite all of his accolades, is still just one of the group playing Euchre, 500 or Spoons at a Christmas gathering.
Jerry and Marian have followed the athletic career of Decker from running around their backyard with his cousins to his grade school and high school days in Cold Spring, MN, to absorbing shoulderpad-breaking hits for touchdowns against the University of California on national television at the new TCF Bank Stadium this fall.
Jerry says that you could watch Eric from early on and tell that he had "it."
"In high school, he could catch any ball; I don't care where it was thrown," says Jerry. Jerry says his daughter Sue, Eric's mom, would sit on the couch and throw him balls and Eric would dive and catch them wherever she threw it. "It's funny he never went straight out the window," laughs Jerry.
Marian says it's a wonder the overhead fan in Sue's living room has survived for how many times it was hit by a ball of one sort or another. Eric was also a star basketball player in high school and Marian remembers watching the lefty Decker pitch for Cold Spring in a state tournament game- an especially nervous moment as a spectator.
Marian says she doesn't think her daughter (divorced from Eric's dad, Tom Decker) has missed a single one of Eric's games with the University. Marian traveled with Sue when the Gophers played California in Berkeley in 2006.
Sue's other child, Sarah, was valedictorian of her Cold Spring class and went on to compete in track at Columbia University in New York City. Marian says Sarah steered Eric into a Christian youth group and was always pushing Eric into character development as well as athletic development. Although a small and quiet town, Cold Spring isn't immune to problems. Marian says it was a terrible day in 2003 when a fellow student opened fire in the school, killing one and wounding another. Eric was in the school at the time.
Eric and Sarah aren't the only athletic Weber grandchildren. Daughter Mary McCabe of Eau Claire has a son playing hockey at Division I Nebraska-Omaha and another son who is a tenth grader but is living in Michigan and training and traveling across the country and overseas with the USA Hockey National Training Development Team.
Son Bob Weber's daughter, Angie, rewrote the pitching records in softball at Upper Iowa University, says Jerry. Also, son Ron Weber's daughter, Molly, was on a state championship basketball team for Hastings.
Jerry was part of some powerhouse Hastings football teams in the late 1940s and played with Bob and Pinky McNamara who both went on to star at the U of M. Jerry is in the Miesville Mudhen (town team baseball) hall of fame for his years as a player and manager.
Jerry is a long-time dairy farmer and Douglas Township Board member and member of the Miesville Lions. Jerry and Marian are both actively involved in St. Joseph's Church in Miesville.
Jerry says Eric went to a foot specialist in North Carolina for his surgery. Brandon Stokley of the Denver Broncos has made a full recovery from a similar injury. Jerry hopes the injury, which will take another seven months of rehab work, doesn't hurt Eric's chances in the NFL draft. Jerry remembers staying in Eric's room when they would be visiting their daughter. "Eric had a picture of himself as a four-year-old dressed in a Twins uniform, and here he ends up getting drafted by them. That's a heckuva deal for any kid."