Yesterday I had the great pleasure of speaking to legendary wide receiver and winner of the 1987 Heisman Trophy, Tim Brown.
Brown, who played for the University of Notre Dame from 1984–1987, was also honored with the 1987 Walter Camp Award and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
He amassed 5,024 all-purpose yards and 22 touchdowns while at Notre Dame. Six of these touchdowns were off punt/kick returns, including back to back punt returns in a 1987 game vs. eventual Rose Bowl Champion Michigan State.
Brown was selected sixth overall in the 1988 draft by the Los Angeles Raiders and was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times in his 17 seasons as a pro. He is among the 26 semi-finalists on this year’s ballot for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
If inducted, Tim Brown will be only the ninth player in history to be both a Heisman Trophy winner and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (along with Roger Staubach, Doak Walker, Earl Campbell, Tony Dorsett, Marcus Allen, Barry Sanders, Paul Hornug and OJ Simpson).
Q: What sets a football player apart from others as a Heisman recipient?
Tim Brown: “Well obviously you have to excel on the football field like no other in that particular year . . . I’m sitting here in my office in Dallas and it’s embedded in my wall across from me and every time I look at it, it is hard to believe. It’s an award that is such of huge significance. It is something to be proud of the rest of your life.”
Q: How did winning the Heisman Trophy change your life personally and professionally?
Tim Brown: “It put a lot of pressure on my back. I came into the NFL will all these high expectations. I was no longer ‘Tim Brown’; I was ‘Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown’. Whenever you have words added to your name when you are introduced it is obviously a change of moment.”
Q: For me, one of the biggest thrills of being a part of the Heisman Trophy winners Club would be hanging out with the great names in college football . . . Hornug, Doak Walker, Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Earl Campbell, etc. From your experience as a member of this club which former winner has or had the most “WOW” factor for you?
Tim Brown: “For me certainly Earl Campbell and Tony Dorsett come to mind, and Roger Staubach. I’ve grown up here in Dallas watching Roger and his playing career and to be in the same fraternity as Roger Staubach is/was a huge deal for me.”
Q: And, who is the guy that you have been the most impressed with that you may not have known much about?
Tim Brown: “Ty Detmer, Andre Ware, Gino Torretta were guys I didn’t know personally, I had seen the things they did on the football field but getting to know these guys off the field has been an incredible inspiration to me because they are great businessmen and do great things in the community . . . they do the best they can with what they have been given . . . that’s admirable.”
Q: Cam Newton from Auburn is the clear leader in the 2010 Heisman Race. What is your take on Newton and how does he stack up as an athlete with the other Heisman winners?
Tim Brown: “There hasn’t been a guy with the talents of Cam Newton. Cam is a dual threat running and throwing the ball. When I saw him earlier this season . . . I didn’t think he could grow as a passer as quickly as he has this season. I think this guy has blown away the competition this year . . . he will one day have a bronze trophy embedded in his wall as well.”
Q: If Auburn loses to South Carolina this Saturday in the SEC Championship and Newton struggles, will this affect his bid for the Heisman?
Tim Brown: “The only thing that could stop him is his FBI investigation . . . Moore . . . Luck . . . and the others have all had a couple of off games but Newton has played great in almost every game. If he falls on his face he still couldn’t be overtaken.”
Q: What is the Heisman Humanitarian Award and how does it tie into the Heisman Trust’s mission?
Tim Brown: “It started back in ’06, the first winner was Joey Cheek the Olympic speed skater. What they wanted to do . . . for people who have done a great job giving back to the community they wanted to give an award . . . This year’s winner is going to be Warrick Dunn and we all know all the great things Warrick has done . . .”
(Other past Heisman Humanitarian winners are NY Giants DE George Martin, Pat LaFontaine and Mia Hamm.)
Q: The Heisman is one of the most elite clubs in all of sports . . . what is something we laymen should know about the Heisman that only a member would know?
Tim Brown: “When the guys are around the other Heisman winners they carry themselves with dignity. Everyone understands when you are in the room with 20 other Heisman winners you can’t be the one who sticks out like a sore thumb, because you are no bigger than the other guys. It is amazing to see folks humble themselves and really, whether you are a Hall-of-Fame NFL player or you never played a down in the NFL, you see guys talking to each other as equals, and I think that is something remarkable to see.”
Q: I was surprised to learn that there are opportunities available to attend the Heisman Memorial Trophy Dinner, December 13 at the Marriott Marquis in New York City, and meet this year’s winner and past winners, is this truly an opportunity available to the general public?
Tim Brown: “Yes, you can go to Heisman.com to get a ticket.”
(Tickets are $500 each)
Q: So are you saying that regular college football fans like me will actually meet and talk to the Heisman winners if they attend the dinner?
Tim Brown: “Absolutely, you’ll have 30-35 Heisman winners there . . . a ton of other folks who are celebrities in their own right . . . a great opportunity to be around your past college football heroes.”
Q: You were among a handful of receivers that have won the Heisman and the last WR to take home the award was Desmond Howard in 1991, why is it so difficult for a non-QB or non-RB to win the Heisman?
Tim Brown: “The only reason Desmond and I won the Heisman trophy was because not only were we receivers but we returned punts and kick-offs. If you are not a RB/QB you’re not going to touch the ball enough or be around the ball enough to say you are a dominant enough part of that game or season to bring home the Heisman trophy.
I am very aware that I didn’t win the Heisman Trophy because I was a great receiver; I was far from that (in college). My ability to run kickoffs and make special teams and defenses adjust because they did want to kick to me . . . they were literally punting balls out of bounds . . . giving us great field position . . . Charles Woodson, a cornerback, returned kicks also.
If you are going to be a non QB/RB you have to have something other than just your position.”