Now comes the delicate moment for "T" (so known since the day his pal and former teammate Alvin Miller walked up to him and said, "Man, you're too fast to be called Tim. From now on you're just T"). If the blocking wedge doesn't work, he has to get brilliant quick or get "clicked," as he says. Clicked used to be known as "creamed."
The most clicky bunch are the seldom-used bodies whose only job is to sprint downfield and hurl themselves at Brown in a frenzied stab at human-ballistic heroics. This is one good reason Brown's mother refuses to watch her son play in person. In fact, even if she's in South Bend, she'll stay in their motor home and watch the game on TV, shutting her eyes during the returns. "She never did like football," says Tim.
Brown's family lives in a small house in lower-middle-class East Dallas. His father, Eugene, is a cement finisher, who has seen five of his six children—Kathryn is only five—go to college. Tim and his friends Brandy Wells (cornerback) and Reggie Ward (another receiver) represent something shiny and modern in sports: talented young athletes who are smart, worldly and disdainful of drugs. All three were named to the Adidas/Scholastic Coach prep All-America team as high school seniors, and they all exercise their intellects as well as their lats now that they're at the most famous football university in the nation.
Of course, they do sometimes rue the rigid atmosphere at Notre Dame. Girls must be out of the rooms by midnight, students may not have alcohol on campus, and nothing unsavory is allowed. Brown won't be seen in the Playboy preseason All-America team picture this year because the current university administration does not want Notre Dame players associated with the magazine.
Politically, players and university are sometimes at odds, too. Notre Dame's refusal to relinquish its investments in South Africa so rankled Brown and his friends that they asked Gerry Faust, their coach until Lou Holtz took over in November 1985, if they could wear black armbands in protest. The university said no.
And then there is drug testing. Notre Dame randomly tests its athletes, but not its other students, for drugs, and Brown wants to know why. "I think it's a matter of my constitutional rights," he says. "If they're going to test me, why not test the guy across the hall? We both go to the same classes. You say I'm a student first, an athlete second. Then why not test him, too?"
No wonder the announcer calls Brown "the deep man."
Because Brown concentrates on his feet when he runs, all he wants to see—needs to see—is a patch of green. If he doesn't see it where it's supposed to be, he takes a guess as to where it might be. "And when you see absolutely nothing," he says, "you just duck your head and hope." When things go wrong, he pays for it.
"You think you're bad?" Penn State players yelled in his face last year after a tackle. "You ain't bad! You ain't——! You run like a little girl!" (The next week against LSU, even though the Irish lost 21-19, Brown rescued the reputations of little girls everywhere by returning that kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown.)