When we think of super star players in the NFL, we typically don't consider how those players got to be where they are today except that it was simply a matter of natural abilities and hard work. But there is a lot more that goes into the makings of a player who reaches the top of his or her profession and joins a small elite group in that field.
In the case of Tim Brown, and many like him, it took a little luck and someone to believe in him enough to push him to be the best. As Tim Brown explained to me in an exclusive interview, the luck came first. That is to say being seen at the right moment by the right people.
"I think two things happened for me to give me my big break if you want to put it that way, and that is my junior year in High School," said Brown. "Notre Dame came to recruit another kid, Donte Jones, who ended up going to Oklahoma and end up playing for the Chicago Bears for 10 years I believe at middle linebacker. He was at my rival high school and they came to recruit him. And that night I scored four touchdowns - a kickoff return, a punt return, a run from scrimmage, and a pass - any way you could score, I scored. The next day Notre Dame was at my school trying to check out who I was and why they didn't know about me. So, that certainly put me on the map."
Now that his talent had been discovered, Brown had to capitalize on that talent. We have seen supremely talented players flame out without someone around who believed in them or to steer them in the right direction. Once he Brown arrived at Notre Dame, he soon would have both.
"The thing that changed my whole future as far as football was when Lou Holtz got there," Brown continued. "After we went through winter ball and once we got into spring ball, after about two days of running around, he pulled me over and asked me a series of questions and then he told me he thought I could be the best player in the country. And of course I didn't believe him . . . he was a new guy so I thought he was trying to get me on his side or whatever. He did that for about two weeks straight and after two weeks I started to think I could be the best player in the country."
Holtz wasn't just blowing smoke either. He backed those words up with his game plan. He knew the kind of talent he had in Brown and made use of that talent.
"He said to the media and to everyone that was listening that ‘the only way Tim Brown won't get the ball is if they intercept the snap from center', so I think the whole team realized he was going to try to get me the ball as many times as he possibly could. But he did it in a very smart way. . . I may have gotten 7, 8, 9 touches a game but it was not at the time they expected them to come so he was very smart that way and it was great for me because people couldn't just key on me because he was pretty good at getting the ball to other folks too."
Tim Brown went on to win the Heisman Trophy as a senior and be drafted by the Raiders in the first round of the 1988 draft (6th overall). From there he went on to be a nine-time Pro Bowler both as a kick returner and wide receiver over 16 NFL seasons.
Brown has been among the finalists for the Hall of Fame each year he has been eligible and is among those nominated for the class of 2014 as well.
These days, Brown spends most of his athletic hours playing golf. He picked up the game early in his NFL career and became pretty good at it over the years. So good in fact, he is about to premiere on Golf Channel's reality show "Big Break NFL" in which he and several other former NFL players including former Raiders teammate, Jerry Rice, will square off on the links. The show premieres Tuesday, October 8 at 6pm Pacific Time on Golf Channel.
I asked the former football great about his aspirations of again working in the sport which he made his career in some capacity with the Raiders or another NFL team and he said it is definitely something he has been open to.
"I can't say no and I certainly can't say yes. Is it something that I'm open to? Absolutely. Will it ever happen? I don't know. Obviously I got a lot of things going on and I got family down here [in Texas]. I've done so much traveling over the years I don't wanna be away four, five days a week if I can help it. I don't know, we'll see what happens in the future."
We have seen several Raider great return to the team. Most recently Charles Woodson - another Heisman Trophy winning top pick by the Raiders - come back to finish his career. Prior to that, many legends have coached and worked in the front office including current coach Willie Brown, GM Reggie McKenzie, and broadcasters Tom Flores, Jim Plunkett, and Lincoln Kennedy.
Who knows what's next. His next 'big break' could be the Hall of Fame. Keeping in the public eye in any way possible is a good thing for keeping him in the minds of the Hall of Fame voters. It's how he was discovered in High school, how he became a Heisman trophy winner, and ultimately a Raider. Or "Mr Raider' as he's known around these parts.