His finishing move may be the simple drive block, not the spinning spinebuster, the double underhook facebuster or even that dreaded inverted Indian deathlock, but that does not mean Ohio State’s Taylor Decker doesn’t measure up to Triple H, the huge WWE presence.
In fact, at 6-foot-7, 315 pounds, the Buckeyes sophomore tackle out of Vandalia Butler High School is bigger than the famed 6-4, 255-pound pro wrestler.
And Decker’s hair is longer.
For many years, Triple H’s shoulder-length locks — either hanging down in all their scruffy wildness or oiled back and tied in a pony tail — was his trademark. But a few months back the corporate shears left him with a “hair today, gone tomorrow” look as he moved into the WWE front office.
Meanwhile, Decker was letting his hair grow and grow and grow until folks around OSU’s preseason camp now are saying he looks more like Triple H than does the shorn shell himself.
“Yeah, I saw the pictures and heard people say I look like Triple H and that’s kind of fun,” Decker said with a laugh. “But for me, I saw Notre Dame’s Tyler Gabbert and Zack Martin — because I was being recruited heavily there — and obviously Andrew (Norwell) here and other linemen at other places and they all had long hair and I thought it was kind of cool looking
“I wanted to grow it out, too, in high school, but I played basketball so I had to cut it and keep it short. But it’s been growing now for a year and a half and I like it … and my girlfriend loves it.”
He said his mom didn’t like the look at first, but has come around. In turn, his upper left arm now sports a large, color tattoo of an owl perched above a tangle of roots.
“I read a quote that said every parent should give their kid roots and wings and they did,” he said. “They gave me opportunities and a great foundation.”
One early dissenter last year, he said with a grin, was defensive lineman Noah Spence. “When I first got here he always got on me and said, ‘Cut your hair. You’re only a freshman you shouldn’t have it.’ He still gives me crap, but it’s all in fun.”
Decker – who had committed to Notre Dame, but backed out on the Irish when Urban Meyer got the Bucks job – did wilt under Spence’s needling last year and just missed winning the starting tackle job that went to Reid Fragel, who is now a Cincinnati Bengal.
“College was a big adjustment for me,” he said. “In high school I was playing against smaller guys and I could dominate. But here I was up against 300 pound guys and they could move, were strong, agile, explosive and quick.
“I was kind of a kid coming out of high school – especially because I came to college early (spring of his senior year) and then next thing I knew I was playing against John Simon (now a Baltimore Raven) and Jonathan Hankins (now with the New York Giants) and they were kicking my butt every day. I felt like I had to grow up and become a college football player.”
He’s doing a good job of that now.
He’s slated to start at right tackle this season and will join four seniors – guards Marcus Hall and Norwell, left tackle Jack Mewhort and center Corey Linsley – as the highly-touted protective barrier in front of quarterback Braxton Miller the Heisman Trophy hopeful out of Wayne High.
The bigger stage has brought with it some tonsorial comparisons between Decker and Norwell, who has similar long, but curly hair.
“So what are you guys, the Big Uglies?” asked one TV commentator at the Bucks recent Football Media Day.
“Not at all,” scoffed Decker. “We look great. The offensive line is the best looking unit on the team. It’s obvious.”
And Norwell will tell anyone who listens — and especially Decker — that his look eclipses that of the younger right tackle. Sometime the debate has come with a bit of macho posturing.
The other day Mewhort told a story about a Norwell and Decker wrestling match in the hallway that had them “fighting out there like big bears.”
So maybe Decker is channeling a little Triple H after all.
Of course, leave it up to another defensive lineman to provide some different perspective.
“Offense linemen are just different,” sniffed defensive tackle Michael Bennett. “I tease (Decker) all the time because he’s always fixing his hair and grooming it.
“Him and Norwell, that’s a lot of mane and tail conditioner out there.”