SALUTE TO SERVICE AWARD

SALUTE TO SERVICE AWARD

Presented by USAA

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Brian Decker (Director of Player Development)

Brian Decker was born into the military in Texas and raised in Kentucky - for Brian Decker, service was in his blood. "My grandfather served in the military in the Korean War and my dad served in the military in Vietnam. There was a tradition of service in our family," he said. "I think the military was always something that I thought about in the back of my mind." But when Brian felt like he needed a change, he decided to join the military. "Once I got there, in a very short amount of time, I realized I had made a great decision." Decker continued, "It was probably the first thing in my life that anyone ever told me I was good at. It's hard to develop a passion for something until you've enjoyed some success. I really liked the structure. I liked the fact that it was about working hard. If you worked hard and did the right things, you could advance." And he did - working his way up to Lieutenant Colonel of the United States Special Forces, he did two tours of duty in Iraq. He was 32 years old the first time he went. His wife was six or seven months pregnant with twins. Brian said the most difficult part of it was having to leave.

"You have a scheduled date on which you're going to leave and you don't know if you'll ever come back," he said. "You write a letter that's hidden somewhere, and people know where it's at so if something were to happen to you, you get to say goodbye." Said Decker. As grueling as it was personally professionally, it was everything he dreamed of. Brian lead a special forces team. He was getting an opportunity to lead some of the most highly trained, qualified, some of the greatest Americans that he's ever met. During his three years as Commander of Special Forces Assessment and Selection, the program saw success - so much so that other organizations - military, business, and even sports teams wanted to hear about it. What they realized was that by focusing solely on performance, they were missing on the person. Decker consulted with professional organizations of every major sport and eventually, the Cleveland Browns brought him in to oversee their player selection process. As it turns out, the characteristics that make someone a good team member are the same - whether it's on the battle field or the football field. "I would go a step farther and say that when you talk about the elite level of the military or any sport or most business organizations - if you take the sports specific requirements away and look at the mindset of the person - they're all the same people."

He continues to serve and give back by investing in veterans like himself and shining a spotlight on nontraditional ways to bring people in from the military and have them contribute in a valuable way. Now, he's helping players develop tools they'll use for life - much like he did with his soldiers. I think every one of us who works here wants to be able to know that in some way, form, or fashion, we're having an impact." From a late bloomer to a leader of men, the military made Brian Decker the man he is today. After 22 years of service, no matter where he goes - in his heart, he's always a soldier.