JERSEY CITY — Career year as he’s set to enter free agency? Check.
Straight-out-of-central-casting good looks and requisite scruff? Check.
Celebrity wife and genetically-blessed baby on the way? Check.
It’s pretty good to be Eric Decker these days. The Broncos receiver will play in the Super Bowl on Sunday, catching passes from one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game, and not long after that will welcome his first daughter with wife Jessie James, a pop/country singer.
Also on the calendar? The start of NFL free agency. Decker, a third-round pick out of Minnesota in 2010 (when the Patriots’ Josh McDaniels was head coach in Denver), has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard, double-digit touchdown seasons and should be one of the more attractive receivers hitting the market this year.
“Across my life, these last two years just have been unbelievable,” said Decker, 26. “It’s almost surreal and after this game, if we are successful, I think I’ll look back and just kind of soak everything in of how lucky and how blessed I’ve been to have so many great things happen in my life in a short time.”
Decker and James were married last June, and announced their pregnancy at the start of the regular season, not long before their reality show, “Eric & Jessie: Game On” premiered on the E! network.
Yes, a reality show.
“They would tease and joke early on,” Decker said of his Broncos teammates and the grief he got for the show. “Then when they saw the show, they wanted to be on it. Maybe some of them will make an appearance in the second season.”
“Eric & Jessie” was one of E!’s top-rated new shows in 2013.
Having cameras document his every move taught Decker a couple of lessons.
“It’s a new experience. It was a cool experience for me, just because they got to document a lot of important things in my life — my wedding, leading up to it, now, the Super Bowl,” he said. “You are who you are, that’s what I learned. Unless you’re going to act completely different, the camera’s going to see who you really are.”
Decker was one of the more popular players on Media Day, with reporters from all manners of entertainment stopping by his booth to talk: about his wife, what they’re going to name their daughter, why he doesn’t wear a cup when he plays (“Don’t you want to protect the little Eric Deckers?” was an actual question), and his favorite part of his wife’s body.
He also got a pop question, pulling a query out of a hat that had a Patriots tie-in: What is Tom Brady’s wife’s last name? Decker gave it his best shot — “It starts with a B . . . Bund-a-Shen?” — but couldn’t pronounce Gisele Bundchen’s name properly.
Decker was better talking about being in his first Super Bowl.
“I always tell people: I’ve dreamed of this since I was a little kid, 5 years old,” he said. “Now to be sitting here in front of everyone, talking about that dream, about football, being one of two teams left, it’s definitely a blessing and I’m excited to relish every minute and enjoy this game.”
Over his first 30 NFL games, Decker totaled 50 receptions for 718 yards. But since Peyton Manning arrived in 2012 he has flourished — as has the entire Denver offense. Decker had 85 receptions for 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first season with Manning, and this year had 87 receptions for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He also has served as the Broncos’ punt returner.
From small-town star (Cold Spring, Minn.) to reality star on the small screen, it’s been quite a ride for Decker.
“Every experience that I’ve had, every type of adversity I’ve gone through, I just feel like I keep maturing as a person and becoming not just a better athlete, but a better person overall,” he said. “With the platform as a professional athlete that I’m on, my mind-set is try to give back and just tell younger kids that I was a small-town kid with people that thought I had no hope of making it where I am.
“I had big dreams and I wasn’t going to let anyone get in the way of that. Everything falls in place when you work hard and you just have that determination.”Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.