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Eric Decker Says His Sons Don’t Have to Play Football

The former NFL receiver also spoke about bonding with other NFL dads and how becoming a dad has made him a better person.

This Sunday, a third of all Americans will sit down to watch Super Bowl LIII and see if wonderboy Sean McVay can put a stop to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick‘s two decades of obnoxious gridiron dominance. And while most of us will pretend to be football experts despite not having played in about a decade, at least one viewer has some hands-on experience: former NFL receiver Eric Decker. Now retired, Decker’s playing days may be behind him but he spent eight years in the league and even reached the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos in 2013.

But for Decker, the job he is most proud of is dad, as he and his wife, country singer Jessie James, are currently raising their three kids Vivianne, 4, Eric Jr., 3, and Forrest, 1. Decker understands the myriad of issues that modern parents face and while he doesn’t pretend to have all of the answers, he is happy to share his perspective on raising kids. Fatherly spoke with Decker about how he handles screentime, who he’s rooting for Sunday, and whether or not he hopes his sons play football when they get older.

How do you feel like becoming a dad changed you?
It’s completely changed my perspective on life. Having kids shaped how I see things, how I make decisions, and what I value. It’s been the most rewarding job I’ve had. It’s amazing. You suddenly experience this unconditional love you just can’t understand until you have kids. Fatherhood has changed me for the better in every conceivable way.

Do you feel like you have a parenting style?
I think so. My wife and I grew up with similar belief systems and similar backgrounds which made it easy for us to be on the same page with raising our kids. Ultimately, we’ve tried to instill discipline in our kids while also letting them explore and be themselves. There may not be an exact name for it but the biggest thing for us is being present for our kids. There are so many different styles for raising kids but, at the end of the day, none of those really matter as long as you have a foundation of love. As long as you give your kid love, that’s all they need.

Did you find that having kids affected your marriage?
It’s made our relationship deeper and more spiritual. We’ve created this human life together and now we get to raise them together. That’s powerful. Of course, that doesn’t mean parenting has made our relationship easier. Obviously, you have to figure out how to give your kids time, how to give your spouse time, and how to give your spouse time. That takes time and effort but it’s been so joyous and so rewarding.

Is it challenging finding time for yourself? Is that something you prioritize?
It is a challenge because you really have to block a set time because being a dad and being a husband are the default. For me, I try to find time to go out to eat with friends or go golfing with friends every couple of weeks. Working out has also become a time for myself. But whatever it is, the biggest thing is having intentional time set apart. It doesn’t always work out but I try to consistently have that.

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Have you found yourself struggling with how to handle screen time with your kids?
Fortunately, they love getting outdoors. Whether we are out in the water, on the playground, playing sports, or if we are inside just making up games in the house, it’s always a blast being active with them. But of course, if it was their choice, they’d probably be on their iPads all day so we make an effort to get them away from the screens and get outside to smell the fresh air.

We allow about 20 minutes a day to let them watch their shows or play games then we’ll hide the iPads. And we’ve found our daughter looking around and searching for the iPad so she can get a little more time. But once they are outside playing they always love it so it’s just making that a priority.

Are they old enough to be playing sports?
My daughter does gymnastics and dance. My oldest son loves playing any sports at home but he’s not in any organized leagues yet. But they both love sports.

Would ever want to coach your kids if they got into sports?
Absolutely. As long as time allows me to, I would love to get to coach them elementary through high school.

As a former player, do you want your sons to play football when they’re older?
I’m not going to push them one way or the other. If they end up wanting to play football, that’s great. If not, that’s great too. I don’t want them to feel pressured to play football just because I played.

There are a surprising amount of dads in the NFL. Is fatherhood something you found yourself bonding with teammates over?
I had a lot of teammates who were dads and it feels like it was a huge part of all our lives. We were all doing our best to raise our kids right and be there for them so that was definitely something we would talk about. We would talk parenting and even try to plan activities to get our kids together so they could hang out.

The Super Bowl is this weekend. You played for Josh McDaniels during your time with the Broncos and also were briefly on the Patriots roster this summer before retiring. Are you rooting for New England?
Ultimately, I like to watch a good game but I’m more invested in New England. I know more of those guys personally so I’d like to see them win. They’ve had such a great run and it would be cool to see them win it all.

Have you had any “dad injuries” that have happened to you because of your kids?
Oh yeah. I’ve been whacked in the face more times than I can count. I have gotten a bloody nose and a bloody lip, just waiting for the day I break my nose. They’ll jump off the couch and put a knee into my face or stomach or where ever. Checking on the kids when they’re sleeping and step on the toys they’ve left out. Nothing serious but lots of dad injuries.

You’ve recently partnered with Horizon Organic High Protein milk. What motivated that partnership?
It was a very organic partnership. As a family, we absolutely love drinking milk. We go through about a half gallon a day and we have been drinking Horizon Organic for a couple years. My son goes to bed with a glass of white milk and wakes up to three glasses of chocolate milk. And Horizon kind of pioneered organic milk. It’s the first organic protein milk that contains 12 grams of organic protein per serving, which is something we really like because we love to eat healthy. No preservatives, no pesticides, no dyes, no GMOs. When we shop, we like to shop healthy and so Horizon Organic is the perfect choice of milk for me and my family. It makes sure our kids are getting their protein with a drink that they love.