Spencer native writes book about Appalachian coach
By Steve Huffman
Following the 2004 football season, Dick Brown told Jerry Moore he was interested in writing a book about the football team and program at Appalachian State.
Moore is Appalachian’s coach and told Brown he’d be happy to help.
But he hedged the offer.
“You have to understand, I may not be the coach here next year,” Brown recalled Moore telling him.
Brown tells the story now and laughs at the irony of the coach’s concerns.
In 2004, Appalachian’s football team ó while good ó wasn’t excelling to the level that some backers wanted. Not everyone wanted Moore to return as coach.
Times have changed.
Since 2004, Appalachian’s football program has been among the nation’s elite, the Mountaineers winning three consecutive national championships.
Appalachian’s win over Michigan to start the 2007 season is considered one of college football’s all-time great upsets.
Moore is now regarded with a hero’s reverence throughout much of North Carolina and the Southeast, a figure whose offers for public speaking engagements are virtually endless.
“He’s the most accommodating person I’ve ever met,” Brown said of Moore. “He’s a deeply religious man who sincerely wants to do what’s right.”
In the three years that Brown spent around Moore and the football players at Appalachian while researching his work, the focus of his book changed.
Whereas he initially intended the work to center on the Southern Conference rivalry between Appalachian and Furman, it grew to encompass those three national championships and focus much more greatly on Moore.
“I’ve been told this book was either a timely accident or a quirk of fate,” Brown writes in the publication’s author’s notes. “I prefer to think it was a little of both.”
Brown’s resulting work, “King of the Mountain” is subtitled, “The Jerry Moore Story.” Though largely self-published, the book is edited and distributed by Winston-Salem’s John F. Blair Publisher.
Brown, a native of Spencer, will be signing copies of his book from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Literary Bookpost, 119 S. Main St., Salisbury.
The book, which totals 213 pages, sells for $16.95 in paperback and $22.95 in hardback.
This is the 70-year-old Brown’s first attempt at writing a book.
“I wish my high school English teacher could see this,” Brown said, laughing. “She’s probably rolling over in her grave.”
After graduating from Spencer High School in 1956, Brown attended Catawba College for a year. He wound up in Texas where he worked for Raytheon as a publications/ graphics supervisor.
Brown took early retirement in the late 1990s, then went to work as a writer for a couple of Texas newspapers. The papers were fairly small and as part of Brown’s duties, he had to cover high school football on Friday nights.
“It was hard work, but I really enjoyed it and always looked forward to the fall football season,” he said.
Brown was somewhat familiar with Moore, though the two hadn’t met. In the 1980s, Moore was head football coach at Texas Tech before being fired after five years at the helm and winning only 16 games.
Despite his lack of success in rebuilding the Texas Tech program, Moore, who also served a stint as offensive coordinator for Tom Osborne’s high-octane offense at Nebraska, had his share of followers.
From Texas Tech, Moore sent 16 players to the NFL and was considered an offensive genius.
“My son’s high school football coach was in awe of Jerry Moore,” Brown said.
Brown finally retired for good in 2002 ó a heart attack he had that year prompted the move ó and he and his wife, Penny, came back to Winston-Salem. Brown has three brothers and a sister, all of whom live in North Carolina.
Brown said he wanted to write a book and considered a few ideas ó a novel involving cigarette smuggling, included ó before approaching Moore about the book about Appalachian football.
That’s when Moore and Brown met in Wilkesboro.
In the following years, the two would meet at the oddest of times ó often at 5:30 a.m. in Moore’s office ó to discuss the project.
As Appalachian’s football successes continued, the book grew. Brown finally finished the publication this past spring, going so far as to have Moore’s wife read the finished product and give it her blessings.
“Jerry’s an humble man,” Brown said. “He won’t read it.”
Brown has worked considerably to promote the book, traveling the state to restaurants and book shops for signings. He said those who think authors get rich off books are sadly mistaken, noting that if he breaks even on the 4,000 copies he had published he’ll be satisfied.
Brown said he’s looking forward to coming back to Rowan County this weekend. His brother, Darrell, still lives in Spencer, not far from the family homeplace.
Brown said he remembers his childhood in Spencer as an ideal place reminiscent of Mayberry.
“We walked three blocks to school and eight blocks to the football field for practice,” he said. “I didn’t care much for school, but I loved sports.”
Brown said he’s hoping many of his former classmates will show up for his book signing Saturday so they might chew the fat and discuss the old days.
“I wasn’t exactly a fireball student in high school,” Brown admitted. “But we all change.”
If you’re interested in getting a copy of “King of the Mountain” but can’t make it to Saturday’s signing, the book can be ordered off the Internet at Brown’s Web site: www.dbink.org. Customers can order using Paypal and there is also a link to the John F. Blair Publisher Web site.