HE MADE his professional fame in Silver and Black, but Tim Brown's achievements in Blue and Gold won't soon be forgotten. The 1987 Heisman Trophy winner--the last Irish player to win the award--finished his college career as Notre Dame's alltime leader in receiving yards (2,493). He caught 137 passes and also returned six kicks for touchdowns. Brown was a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Raiders in '88 and retired from the NFL with 14,934 receiving yards, 1,094 receptions and 100 touchdown catches. Today he lives near Dallas and works as an analyst for Fox Sports Net's FSN Pro Football Preview. Brown, now 40, recalls his college career.
On where Notre Dame football is now
I love the direction the program is going in. The only thing I caution people on is to realize that Notre Dame is a special place. When you have a test at Notre Dame, you have a test at Notre Dame. There are few colleges that make their athletes truly earn the opportunity they have. So it would be great to see the Irish win another championship, but to see them being competitive and winning games is all you can really ask for. It's a very difficult place to stay focused academically and athletically because the load is so heavy. If they can win a national championship, that's a big cherry on top of a sundae.
On winning the Heisman Trophy
It was impossible at 21 to understand the depth and the breadth of what had happened. I can remember coming back to Notre Dame and seeing the hundreds of people at the airport who came out just to touch the trophy. You realize that maybe this is more than just an award. Certainly now I have never not been introduced, except at church, as Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown. It changes who you are and makes you think about that trophy every time you speak or get introduced.
On the Notre Dame players who won the Heisman before him
I have pictures of all of us [ Angelo Bertelli, Johnny Lujack, Leon Hart, Johnny Lattner, Paul Hornung and John Huarte] from my rookie year in Los Angeles. We got together at a function when the Irish came to play USC. Even if [Notre Dame is] fortunate to get an eighth this year, I often think about how we will never be able to get the full group together again. [Hart died in 2002.]
On where his Heisman is today
The trophy has been at my mom's house in Dallas [since '87]. Former Raider Chester McGlockton is a good friend of mine. He was always getting on me: "Brown, you ain't nothing, man. Back in your day did people used to talk about you?" So once when he came to Dallas I said, "Let's go to my mom's house." She keeps the Heisman Trophy in this really nice cabinet, and it has a spotlight that you can turn on it. I turned all the lights off in the room, and I left the spotlight on the trophy. Chester walks in there, and it literally took this big man's [6'3", 334 pounds] breath away. It's like he was about to shed a tear. When I would go to my mom's house, every once in a while I would stop and rub it just to see it still says TIMOTHY BROWN on it.
On gaining 252 all-purpose yards in a 38-37 win at USC on Nov. 29, 1986
To some people this is unbelievable, but up until that point, I had never considered playing in the NFL. I was going to get my degree and come back home, marry my high school sweetheart, have six kids and be a deacon in the church. But after that game the late and great [sportswriter] Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times came up to me and said, "You are going to be my front-runner for the Heisman next year." Before I got on the plane ride home I remember getting on the phone with my brother Don, and both of us were thinking the same thing: Even if I didn't win the Heisman, somebody is going to want me to play in the NFL. That game changed my outlook on football. It was my greatest college game, for sure.
On last year's Notre Dame-USC game
If you can believe this, it was the first game I had watched at Notre Dame since I played there. I never had a chance being on the West Coast. It was really great to be on the field. The smell of the grass, everything. It was just unbelievable how you could take yourself back 18 years in just five minutes. The campus is so different now. I wanted to go see my dorm, but now it's a girls' dorm. It was just great to be back. It felt as if I should head to the locker room to get changed, like I could start this all over right now.