Detroit Lions’ Taylor Decker packs a punch on and off the field.

Watching our beloved Detroit Lions play on Thanksgiving Day has been a Michigan tradition since 1934. To celebrate this year, we chatted with Lions offensive tackle Taylor Decker. At 6’7” and 320 pounds, the 2016 Lions Rookie of the Year packs a punch on the field and in his personal life — he lives with gusto and gratitude, and a sweet demeanor that belies his stature.

Birmingham City Lifestyle: Are you as excited about the Lions’ current season as the city is?

TD: I’m so excited about this season, and I love sharing it with all the loyal fans who have supported me for seven years. Being able to give an inside look into the hard work we’ve put in to give Detroit a winner on [reality sports series] Hard Knocks is amazing. I feel that has brought the fans even closer to us as players

BCL: You have spent your entire NFL career in Metro Detroit. What has that meant to you?

TD: Detroit has become home, simply put. I love the hard work ethic of this city and have had countless conversations with wholesome, positive people. They all love where they are from, and support the Lions fiercely. There are such beautiful places to go in Michigan, and you can feel the culture and history deeply embedded in its roots everywhere you go. 

I live in Bloomfield Hills, and love it here and in Birmingham. The area is beautiful, and the restaurants are great. I love the history here, and it’s hard to beat the cider mills in the fall! 

BCL: Where do you live in the off-season?

TD: After training for the [NFL Scouting] Combine in Arizona in 2016, I fell in love with the area and decided to train there in the off-season. That is where I met [my wife] Kyndra — she is from Arizona and most of her family lives there [see the professional chef’s recipes in TK]. In the off-season, it’s the perfect place for golfing, relaxing and hanging by the pool with the dogs. 

BCL: You played college football at Ohio State. Are you still a loyal Buckeye?

TD: I will always be a loyal Buckeye. I grew up in Vandalia, Ohio — and I know Michiganders may hate to hear it — but I always wanted to be a Buckeye. My time there really helped me grow up. But I’ve become a man from my time in Detroit, competing on Sundays as a Lion. I think it is important to be cognizant of your roots and the people who helped you get to where you are. 

BCL: Tell your fans something about you that nobody knows.

TD: I absolutely love getting the smoker rolling to make a barbecue. I do it at least once a week in season, and much more frequently off-season. I love the time and care it takes to be done properly and there’s no better way to build flavor than time. Another one: My wife and I love playing video games together to unwind. It gives us a brief escape from the madness of an NFL season. She’s a super nerd just like me! 

BCL: What are your goals in the game of football?

TD: The ultimate goal is to be a winner, but there are multiple things that go into that. For me, the first thing is to make my loved ones proud. My wife, parents and family have always been supportive of me striving for my goals, and I want to repay that by being a person and athlete they’re proud of. The other would be earning the respect of my teammates and opponents. If you can do that then you’re approaching your craft the right way. 

BCL: With Thanksgiving coming up, how do you celebrate and what are you most thankful for?

TD: I’m thankful for my loved ones. And soon [at the time of this interview], my wife and I will be welcoming our first child. That has been such an amazing experience, seeing Kyndra develop her maternal instinct. I grew up in a big family so beginning my own family with my wife is a huge chapter for me.

BCL: Tell us about those tattoos. 

TD: I’ve got two sleeves, both hands, my chest, over half my back, a quad and a calf done — and I’m sure it won’t end there. I have a good amount of family in the military — when I was 18, I spent all of my graduation money on a tattoo to honor my brothers and their service in the Marine Corps and Navy. Then I was hooked. I have many that have meanings and others that I simply thought looked cool. My leg is a tribute to my family heritage. On my chest is a Lion with a Native American headdress (after a favorite mini statue my grandma had). I’ve got the Simba finger painting on an elbow — my favorite movie as a kid. I have Arizona-inspired ones, where I spend my off-seasons and where I met my wife. And yes, I have a Block “O” from my time at Ohio State. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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