Former Gophers Help the Broncos Ride to the Peak of the AFC West

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VIDEO: Decker caught 2 passes during Sunday's Denver win over the Vikings.

By Cory Hall,

The Denver Broncos and quarterback Tim Tebow have been a top headline in the National Football League over the past month or two. But Gopher fans know there is more to the team's success than a fleet-footed quarterback. Former Minnesota football players Eric Decker and Adam Weber may not reap the glory, but each of them have played an integral part in helping the Broncos rise to the top of the AFC West Division, alongside the Oakland Raiders.

This past weekend, the Broncos snuck out of Minneapolis with a 35-32 comeback victory over the Minnesota Vikings to improve to 7-5 overall and grab their fifth straight win. The triumph at Mall of America Field places Denver in a tie for first in the AFC West with the Raiders and generates hope for a playoff berth for the Broncos.
Go Gophers! Decker
Go Gophers!
Eric Decker has emerged as one of Broncos' quarterback Tim Tebow's favorite targets this season.
Go Gophers!

"It was a battle today, and it just came down to the last play," former Gopher Eric Decker said following the team's third-straight comeback win. "Our mentality is that if it's close in the fourth, we're going to find a way to win, no matter how it gets done. I am glad we came out on top, and it was great to get a win in front of family and friends."

Decker, a second-year wide-out who holds Gopher records for career receptions (277) and receiving yards (3,119), has been just one of notable players in the Broncos organization who has received praise for the team's revival. With Denver's receiving corps looking for a No. 1 target heading into the season, the Cold Springs, Minn. native has stepped up to be the go-to-guy, pulling in 39 receptions for 552 yards and eight touchdowns.

The numbers support a case for Decker being a large part of Denver's success the past month or two. But the 6-foot-3, wide receiver paid tribute to a plethora of pieces in the organization for the team's turnaround.

"It is just fun to be a part of this team and the comeback that we are making," Decker stated. "Every game someone different makes a big play, and it doesn't matter who makes them, just as long as we win."

Following the Broncos' three-point victory over Minnesota, former Gopher teammate and now Vikings defensive back Marcus Sherels applauded Decker for his tenacity. Sherels played receiver with Decker for two seasons at the U and then switched to defensive back.

"I was with [Eric] Decker for four years and trained at receiver with him for two years," Sherels said. "I have always looked up to him and respected him a lot. His work ethic is second to none."

On the other hand, rookie quarterback Adam Weber hasn't been in the spotlight thus far in his young NFL career. But the contribution that he makes with the practice squad has helped prepare the stifling Denver defense, which has held three of its last four opponents to 13 points or less.
Go Gophers! Weber
Go Gophers!
Former Gopher QB Adam Weber is currently on the Denver Broncos' practice squad.
Go Gophers!

"Weber is good," said Decker, who is a current teammate of Weber's and was his top target when they were Gophers from 2007-09. "He is playing well right now with the practice squad. He is going to get a shot one of these days because he definitely has the skills to play in this league."

Weber, who holds Minnesota career records for passing yards (10,917), completions (909) and touchdowns (72), was activated this past weekend against the Vikings for the first time in his career.

When looking toward the future, both former Gophers have hopes of establishing themselves as a weekly contributor in the NFL, but right now, their sights are set on the short-term goal of aiding Denver in reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

"Our mentality really is one game at a time," Decker said. "To know that Oakland lost and we won, and that we're tied in first place -- we have a chance. That's the best thing right now. We're playing our best football and playing together as a team. Camaraderie is high and we'll see where it takes us."

After playing five of its last seven games on the road, Decker, Weber and the Broncos return home to Mile High Stadium this weekend to host an injury-plagued Chicago Bears team, which also has a couple former Gophers on its roster. Running back Marion Barber III and tight end Matt Spaeth will have a chance to catch up with Decker and Weber this weekend.

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