Free Press sports writers Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez preview the Lions’ game against the Bills. Recorded Dec. 13, 2018.
Carlos Monarrez and Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
Taylor Decker has been reunited with the ball he scored his first ever touchdown with, and the Detroit Lions left tackle has Twitter and an understanding fan to thank.
Decker said Friday that he connected with the Lions fan who ended up with his touchdown ball not long after he chucked it into the stands in the third quarter of a Dec. 2 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Decker, who scored on an 11-yard pass from Matthew Stafford, took to Twitter after the game to plead for the return of the ball.
His message went viral, and several other Lions fans made the connection happen.
“I tweeted that and I got a bunch of DMs of people saying that they knew who it was, and pictures of the guy,” Decker said. “Then that guy made a Twitter and he sent me a picture of the ball and his ticket, because everybody was telling me what row and section seat it was. And I was like, ‘All right, there he is. That’s the guy.’
“It was pretty easy. Within like 45 minutes of tweeting it, it was found. It was pretty quick.”
Decker declined to identify the fan, but a story from the Greenville Daily News last week identified him as Bill Zerbst of Greenville.
Decker said the fan was “super nice” about returning the ball, and he’s “100 percent” sure that it’s authentic.
The NFL numbers the balls its uses in games, and referees are required to stamp a distinctive mark in the corner of each non-insignia panel on the ball.
“I talked to the equipment staff,” Decker said. “I was like, ‘How am I going to be able to verify?’ Well, the officials mark on all of them.”
Decker declined to say how he plans to repay the fan for returning the ball, but Zerbst told the Daily News the trade was worth it.
“I’m definitely trading up for an awesome memory for a more awesome memory,” Zerbst told the paper.
Decker, who has the ball sitting on a window sill in his Detroit area home for now, said he has not been angling for more catches, but if he gets another chance to score a touchdown he won’t throw the ball into the stands again.
“Everybody was like, ‘Why would you throw it if you wanted to keep it?'” Decker said. “I’m like, ‘People say act like you’ve been there before, I hadn’t.'”
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