Taylor Decker spent 21 minutes Monday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center with the throng of reporters who cover Ohio State football. That’s probably a season high for any player.
If any Buckeye was going to spend that much time talking about all manner of topics — Decker touched on the play of teammates like Chase Farris, Joey Bosa and Ezekiel Elliott among other things — it would be the senior left tackle from Vandalia-Butler High School. Of all the players on the roster, only senior linebacker Joshua Perry rivals Decker in the ability to engage the media for minutes on end and provide fans who read the stories the type of inside analysis they want from their favorite team.
Decker will do the same for an NFL team somewhere next fall. In a recent mock draft, ESPN predicted the Carolina Panthers would draft Decker with the 11th pick in the first round.
That future, however, is still months away. Decker still has two more regular-season games with the Buckeyes and — he hopes — the Big Ten championship game and two playoff games after that. The final stretch run begins with a 3:30 p.m. matchup Saturday between No. 3 Ohio State (10-0, 6-0) and No. 9 Michigan State (9-1, 5-1).
The final game at Ohio Stadium for Decker is also one of the biggest of his career.
“Being here four years, I’ve played in a lot of big games,” Decker said. “It’s always been the same. You don’t listen to (the hype). You keep within the team. The coaches do a really good job of that. We haven’t even played our best yet. We obviously have to play better in a big game. So we have to focus on that and not so much what people are going to be talking about.”
Decker will start his 40th straight game. He has started every game the last three seasons. He also appeared in all 12 games as a freshman in 2012, but mostly on special teams.
In Decker’s four seasons, the Buckeyes are 48-3, and only one of those losses came at Ohio Stadium (to Virginia Tech in the second game of the 2014 season).
“It’s just home. That’s what I’m going to miss about it,” Decker said. “I’ve lived in Columbus for four years. Growing up, I’ve always wanted to play here. That’s our home stadium. It symbolizes what this place is about. All those fans come and pack the house.”
Decker will try to put the memories in the back of his mind Saturday and focus on the Spartans.
“It’s my last shot at it,” Decker said. “I’m never going to get to come back here and play. I don’t want to focus on that too much because it’ll be emotional for me and I don’t want to come into the game emotional. I want to focus on winning the game, and afterward I can be sad.”
As for his parents, Ron and Sheila Decker, he knows they’ll be a mess.
“That’s what’s going to be tough for me,” Decker said. “When I chose to come back for my senior year, my dad was like, ‘I want to be out on the field for your Senior Day.’ They’re looking forward to it, but at the same time, it’s going to be sad for them because I know they’ve loved watching me play. That’ll be the hardest part for me — seeing my parents — because I know they’ll be crying.”
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