Aug. 6, 2009
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following feature article was written by National Football Foundation correspondent Steve Richardson. It has been re-printed with the permission of the NFF, with the original version available on the National Football Foundation web site.
Tim Brown can certainly relate to how a coaching change can affect a player’s production on the field and ultimately a career. Arriving in South Bend in 1984, Brown played his first two seasons for Irish head coach Gerry Faust before Lou Holtz arrived.
“I was just excited to play football at the highest level. I loved football,” Brown said. “And I wanted to play hard and I wanted to represent myself well. But when Lou Holtz came there things sort of changed. My focus was still on academics, but athletically I knew I could maybe do something that was a little special.”
A good receiver his first two seasons, he set a freshman record of 28 receptions in 1984 and added 25 as a sophomore in 1985. But Notre Dame’s program was going nowhere. Then Holtz arrived, launching Brown to All-America status twice and the team to the 1988 Cotton Bowl.
As a junior, he set a Notre Dame record for all-purpose yards with 1,937 yards, which still stands, and during his senior campaign Brown won the Heisman Trophy and the Walter Camp Award.
“Gerry was a great guy and we loved him dearly,” Brown added. “But the system he had wasn’t going to work in college football. All of a sudden after the option, we have a wide-open passing attack and defensively the guys liked what they were doing on that side also. My first two years were sort of ho-hum, and my last two years were the best you could possibly have as a college football athlete.”
Listed as a flanker at Notre Dame, Brown electrified fans in the final game of his junior season when he led a 38-37 come-from-behind victory at USC. Brown had 254 all-purpose yards in the upset of the Trojans, adding a 56-yard punt return that set up the winning field goal as time ran out.
“I can’t imagine that there’s anyone else who can have such a major effect on a football game in as many ways as Tim Brown can,” Holtz once said.
Although Notre Dame finished only 5-6 Holtz’ first season as the Irish’ head coach, the stage was set for Brown’s senior season. In the second game of the 1987 season against Michigan State, Brown’s back-to-back punt returns of 66 and 71 yards for touchdowns keyed a 31-8 rout of Rose Bowl-bound Michigan State and set up Brown as the Heisman Trophy favorite.
Brown, nicknamed “Touchdown Timmy,” left Notre Dame as the all-time leader in career pass receiving yards (2,493) and all-purpose yardage (5,024 yards) and had six returns (three kickoff and three punts) for touchdowns during his career.
His NFL career included nine Pro Bowls during 15 seasons (1988-2003) with the Raiders, catching at least 75 passes in 10 straight seasons and a final 16th season with Tampa Bay in 2004. He currently lives in DeSoto, Texas, a Dallas suburb, serving as the national chairman of Athletes & Entertainers for Kids.
“When you picked up a helmet and a football when you were 8 or 9 years old, the last thing you thought about was ending up in College Football Hall of Fame,” said Brown, the 43rd Notre Dame player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
- Won 1987 Heisman Trophy as first true wide receiver to do so.
- Hails from Dallas’ Woodrow Wilson HS, the same alma mater as 1938 Heisman Trophy winner Davey O’Brien.
- Set 19 school records at Notre Dame and was a unanimous All-America in 1987.
- Selected sixth overall in the 1988 NFL Draft by the then Los Angeles Raiders, playing in nine Pro Bowls.
The 52nd NFF Annual Awards Dinner will take place at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City on Dec. 8, 2009. Please contact Will Rudd at email@example.com or 972-556-1000 to purchase tickets or for more details.
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