Updated: November 28, 2009 at 12:00 am
ENGLEWOOD – Brandon Stokley had never met or talked to University of Minnesota receiver Eric Decker, but he wanted to help him.
Stokley, the veteran Denver Broncos receiver, found out through Minnesota offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch that Decker suffered a season-ending foot injury. Fisch was Denver’s receivers coach in 2008. Decker suffered a Lisfranc injury, which consists of torn ligaments in the foot, last month. His college career was done and his status as a potential 2010 first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft was in jeopardy.
Stokley felt for Decker. He had the same injury in 2002 when he was with the Baltimore Ravens. Stokley said when he was diagnosed with the injury, he cried all day.
“I just wanted to let him know everything was going to be OK, that it’s not the end of his career,” Stokley said. “It’s a tough injury but from what I hear he’s a hard worker and it shouldn’t affect his future in the NFL.”
Stokley said it was the toughest injury he had gone through, worse than when he tore an anterior cruciate knee ligament or snapped an Achilles’ tendon. Still, he was under no obligation to call Decker. He had seen Decker play on television, but didn’t have any direct ties to Minnesota or even the Big Ten. But Stokley felt it was the right thing to do.
“I know what he’s going through,” Stokley said. “I wanted to let him know that if you put the time and work in, you’ll be fine. When I was in the same situation, if someone would have called me that had been through it and let me know that it would be fine, I would have appreciated it.”
Decker faces a long road back, through surgery and what Stokley described as mentally grueling rehabilitation.
“I believe things happen for a reason,” Decker said, according to the Gophers’ Web site. “I think it's going to test my character and test my patience.”
Stokley not only reached out to Decker, but tried getting a hold of him for more than a week because the two kept trading messages. They finally chatted, and Stokley hoped he lifted Decker’s spirits.
“Anything to help,” Stokley said. “I told him if he ever needs anything, any advice, to just give me a call. So I’m sure we’ll be talking in the future.”