Why? If you hear him tell it, a close bond with fellow lineman Pat Elflein played a big part in the decision.
“How can I leave guys like this? We’ve got the slob house,” Decker said with Elflein lurking behind him as he answered the question. “How are we not going to play with each other for my senior year.”
Decker went on to expand on the personal and team goals for the upcoming season that contributed to his decision to return, but the friendship with Elflein is no small thing.
The senior left tackle and redshirt junior right guard are roommates, proud residents of the slob house, a play on the nickname given to the offensive line by Andrew Norwell in 2012 that persists today. They’re also leaders along the offensive line, a unit expected to be a big strength for the Buckeyes in 2015.
It’s well known that running back Ezekiel Elliott and defensive end Joey Bosa are close friends, but Decker said their friendship gets more publicity because of their significant fame. He, Elflein and the slobs are truly the closest group of friends on the team, Decker assured.
“They just get all of the press because they get to score touchdowns,” the tackle said. “Joey gets the sacks. But it’s the O-line, it’s the slobs for sure.”
It’s a close-knit group that will welcome a new member to the starting lineup this fall. Elflein, Decker, Billy Price and Jacoby Boren return after starting every game last season while Chase Farris and Jamarco Jones are the leading contenders to fill the vacancy at right tackle.
As a fifth-year senior, Farris is familiar with the lifestyle and closeness that comes with being a slob. As the youngest returning starter, however, Price assured that simply being an offensive lineman is not enough to qualify as a member of the closest unit on the team. “You have to be above 6-foot, so Jacoby is honorary,” Price joked. “He’s an honorary slob. Make sure he knows that.
“You’ve just got to be one of the boys. You don’t automatically because you’re on the offensive line become part of the slobs. It’s guys like freshmen like Brady Taylor, Kyle Trout, guys like that really don’t understand it yet. Once you’ve kind of embracing the culture, that’s when you get your slob title.”
Whether it’s Price joking with Boren for his size, Boren continuing to give Price a hard time as the youngest returning starter, or Decker crediting his return to Ohio State to his allegiance to Elflein and the rest of the offensive line, when watching their interactions it’s plain to see how close the slobs are.