Owen's proud athletic tradition on display at book signing

Jon Decker to sign copies of "Golf is My Life: Glorifying God Through the Game" on Nov. 10

Fred McCormick

Owen High School and the Swannanoa Valley play big roles in Jon Decker's new book, "Golf is My Life: Glorifying God Through the Game.”

Black Mountain was where Decker discovered his passion for the game. Now he is a PGA teaching professional at the New Albany Country Club in Columbus, Ohio. Decker's ambition to pursue a career in golf was fueled by the athleticism surrounding him when he was a student-athlete at Owen.

“When I went back to the new high school and looked at that hall of fame there, I realized there aren’t a lot of universities in the country that can claim names as big as those,” he said “And a lot of that athletic excellence was going on in a three- to five-year window when I happened to be at Owen. I feel very blessed to have experienced that.”

Jon Decker is an alumnus of Owen High School and a PGA teaching professional in Ohio.

Decker will sign copies of his book 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday,

Nov. 10 in the auditorium at Owen. Speaking at the event will be Bill Burrows, who coached the Owen basketball teams that included future NBA first-round draft pick Brad Daugherty. Daughherty led the 1982 team to the state championship game. Both he and Burrows wrote a foreword for Decker’s book.

Jon Decker's book talks about his life growing up in Black Mountain and his experiences as a student-athlete at Owen High School.

Brad Johnson, quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when, in 2002, they won Super Bowl XXXVII, also wrote a forward. Johnson, who also played for Burrows, will speak at the signing as well.

Johnson also wrote a foreword for a chapter in Decker’s book, "The Worm," which gets its name from a drill the Warhorse basketball players had to do under Burrows after mishandling a ball.

"Any time you dropped the ball, the coach would yell ‘That’s a worm,’ and you would go do it,” Decker said. “You had to lay on your stomach and keep your torso off the ground and drag yourself from the baseline to half court, which is 45 feet.”

The chapter examines a story Decker heard from Burrows about Johnson’s work ethic. Burrows told him that Johnson would arrive at the gym early in the mornings to shoot baskets before anyone got there. Once, when he mishandled the ball as it was tossed back to him, he immediately walked to the baseline and did a worm. Johnson won a Super Bowl, Decker claims in his book, because he had more than his God-given ability. "He had the work ethic and did the little things,” Decker said.

Johnson learned the value of hard work playing sports in the Swannanoa Valley.

“When I look back I think about all of the hard work that we all put into it,” Johnson said during a recent interview. “There was always accountability. If there was a snow day we were going to practice anyway. If you couldn’t make it, someone was going to come pick you up and we were going to practice.”

That kind of environment was a breeding ground for success, athletically and otherwise, according to Johnson.

“I was around great athletes at an early age, so I always thought somewhere out there someone is better than me,” Johnson said. “But I never wanted to let anyone outwork me.”

Jon Decker signs a contract with a publisher to write his first book, which he will be signing at Owen High School on Thursday, Nov. 10.

Decker's book includes a foreword from Johnson’s Owen High football coach, Kenny Ford, who coincidentally coached the McDowell High School golf team the season Decker’s mom coached the Warhorses.

The book’s chapters come together to tell the story of how God guided Decker to a career in golf.

“The main purpose of this book is to glorify God,” Decker said. “God has just given me these experiences, great stories and great people, and in turn I feel like I should share.”