The New Taylor Decker

With an improved physical presence, Notre Dame pledge Taylor Decker is prepared to make his final year of high school special.

Butler High School (Vandalia, OH) offensive tackle Taylor Decker has enjoyed tremendous growth over the last couple of years. But his emergence from basketball player to legitimate major football prospect has meant a lot of hard work and practice.

"Practice is what I like to do," Decker told "I actually look forward to it. I'm tired but I look forward to getting back out and working on my game. Right now is all about going to football, eating and sleeping."

Tuesday found Decker on the field with a preseason scrimmage.

"We had a scrimmage against Meadowdale High School," Decker said. "If we would have kept score we would have won like 35-0 but we didn't keep score.

"To be honest, I was really happy with how I played, with all work I've been doing. I thought I played pretty well. Obviously there are always things you can do better, but me personally, I was happy with how I played."

One thing different about this season is Decker's physical size. How was it playing at 300-pounds as compared to years past?

"It's different, definitely different than the past seasons have been," Decker said. "I played last season at about 265-pounds. Now I'm 300-pounds and I can feel the difference in a positive way. Our conditioning this summer was the hardest it's been, so I feel like the weight hasn't hurt me with all the running we've done. I feel it's going to be the most exciting season as well."

Decker knows this is the final year for he and his teammates to leave a mark on the program.

"I'm not going to kid and say I think we're going to be OK," Decker said. "Expectations as a team this year are to make the playoffs. We want to make it to the playoffs and a lot of the guys in my grade are football players.

"We have high expectations and in the past, our class has had a reputation of winning. So we're really hungry to get Butler back on track. I feel we have that killer instinct we haven't had in the past. We've had talent, but I feel this year we have that extra edge."

As a Notre Dame pledge, Decker knows a lot of eyes will be on him this fall and opposing players will look to make a statement against him.

Is he ready to handle the pressure?

"I don't feel pressure," Decker said. "I know there are going to be more eyes on me than ever before. However, I know from talking with my coaches I'm just going out to play football. It's not pressure, but you do know people are watching you."

With high team goals already in place, what does Decker hope to accomplish this season?

"I want to be able to dominate every play," Decker said. "I should be able to do that if I do what I'm capable of doing. I also want to have some good plays on defense as I'm going to play some defense as well this season."

Decker has been staying in contact with Irish running backs coach Tim Hinton.

"I just called coach Hinton last week," Decker said. "I tried to give him a call tonight as he wanted to talk with me about our scrimmage. I talked with him last Thursday and everything is cool. He was asking how I feel playing at this weight and our conditioning and what I think about our team."

Decker is excited about the upcoming Notre Dame season as he'll look to make several trips to campus.

"I'm going up for the opener," Decker said. "I also plan on attending as many games as I can with several members of my family."

Has Decker been keeping track as the Irish class of 2012 continues to grow?

"I've been busy, but I try and check the internet every couple of days," Decker said. "I just check to see how things are going. The way Notre Dame finished last season they're going to have great players coming in this class.

"The incoming class this year was a great class and it would be great to have another to follow it up."

Decker knows there are still some out there who remember the 265-pound player from a year ago. He is looking forward to showing everyone the new and improved version.

"I worked really hard during the off season," Decker said. "I hope once people see me this season they'll see the kind of player I'm becoming."

While many of the top players from across the country are accepting invites to All-American games, Decker is not sure if he'll be taking part, despite holding an invitation from the Army game.

"I've been asked to play in the Army All-American game," Decker said. "However, my dad is not sure if he wants me to play in it or not. I think he's worried about me getting hurt, but we'll see as I know it's a great honor as my dad was in the Army and I have a brother who was a Marine and one who is currently in the Navy." Top Stories