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Two Tims Talking: A Q&A With Football Great Tim Brown

The Heisman winner and NFL Hall of Famer headlines the Healing Hands Luncheon on March 31.
By Tim Rogers |
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Photo courtesy HHM Health

Tim Brown and I have led parallel lives. There’s the name obviously. People call me Touchdown Timmy all the time. We’re both super fast. We both went to Notre Dame (he graduated the year before I enrolled), where he won the Heisman Trophy and where I almost cried when I had to fence Derek Brown in a freshman PE class. He was a standout at Woodrow Wilson High School, where my daughter is now a sophomore. And we both enjoy golf. Really, it’s kind of eerie how similar we are.

So when the folks at HHM Health said I could talk to Tim if I’d promote the event he’s headlining for them, I asked if I could have three hours with him. That didn’t happen. But I did get 30 minutes. What follows is a transcription of two Tims talking football and other stuff, including tambourines. I guess my favorite part was when I picked the scab off an old wound and made Tim talk about the wild series of events that robbed him of a Super Bowl nearly 20 years ago. I’m sorry, Tim.

Oh, here’s the deal with HHM Health: they are having a fundraising lunch at the Dallas Arboretum March 31. It’s a worthy cause. HHM helps provide healthcare to underserved communities; the pandemic has made their work all the more essential. At the luncheon, WFAA sports anchor Joe Trahan will have a conversation with Tim that will probably be almost as awesome as the one I had with him.

Here’s the good stuff:

I was just up at Woodrow earlier this week. My daughter’s a sophomore, and I was picking her up. In that front hallway, there’s a portrait of you and Davey O’Brien together [O’Brien also attended Woodrow and won the Heisman]. It’s like the oddest portrait. I’m sure you’ve seen it. Do you know where that painting came from or why you look so not like yourself in it?

I guess I don’t know what painting you’re talking about. I had someone else who was up there, early in the year, and they sent me a picture, but it was a regular picture. So I don’t know if I’ve seen the painting.

There’s a mural of you in the hallway outside the gym. You’re in full pads, running with the ball. I know you must have seen that one.

I do know about that one. They have a banner of me in every DISD gym around the district. Woodrow decided to put a mural up instead of putting the banner up, so that worked out pretty good, I guess.

How come at Woodrow they don’t have a mural of you marching in the band?

[laughs] Right. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s definitely something that should be there, a little picture of me, you know, marching in the band, because if not for the band, I don’t know.

Freshman year, you didn’t play ball at Woodrow. You’re in the band. What instrument did you play?

I was a percussionist. Drums, cymbals, whatever that particular song needed. But I played freshman football. I wasn’t on varsity. In the seventh grade, my mom had told me she didn’t want me to play football. I told my dad I wanted to play. He was such a big Cowboys fan and such a big football guy, you know, he was secretly finding these slips for me to go play. The good thing about seventh and eighth grade, by the time you finish practice, it’s a few minutes after school but not that much. I got away with it. Freshman year was not that bad, because I would blame [the after-school time] on band. But after that, it became tough. When she found out I was playing, it was not a good moment for sure.

That must be how you got invited to play the tambourine before the Pro Bowl, because you were a percussionist?

[laughs] Yeah, yeah. I’ve been in the NFL Gospel Choir for 20 years. When I was still playing in the league, I was performing with those guys. Now, I’m background, you know. These guys can really sing, man. And so, yeah, one time, about four or five years into it, there just happened to be a tambourine onstage, and I grabbed the tambourine and just went to work on it, you know. I hated that at the Pro Bowl this year. They were like “The NFL Gospel Choir! Featuring Tim Brown!” I was like, oh my God. [laughs] I felt so bad for these guys, because they are incredible singers, and here they are talking about Tim Brown.

You probably know that Woodrow just lost their head football coach. He left for Plano East. Come on, Timmy! Come on, man. You’re not doing anything right now.

[laughs] Shoot, if I can coach it from Cedar Hill, I would be your man. You know, maybe one day a week. I’m a great coach one day a week. But two, three, four days? No, no. I always wish my alma mater well, and if there’s anything they ever need me to do, speak to the team or whatever, I’m all in. But I can’t throw my hat into that bucket. I coached one year at Canterbury Episcopal. My son was in the eighth grade there at the time. It’s the only year they had football there. I had fun. I really enjoyed it. I had a chance to really teach young kids. But the worst part of the whole deal was having these seventh-, eighth-grade parents come up to me like they knew more about football than I did. So I can’t even imagine coaching high school.

You said something about doing whatever your alma mater needs. You do that golf tournament for Woodrow every year, and I know you got a hole in one a couple years ago.

That was last year at Tim Tebow’s golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass. I had a hole in one there. It was mind-boggling, really. I didn’t know what to do. I almost jumped in the water. I’m glad I didn’t. But I was so excited. In my office, I have the Heisman Trophy and the NFL Hall of Fame bust, and in between that I have the ball from the hole in one. A lot of my buddies are like, “Hey, bro, I just want to tell you: that may be the most impressive thing, you know, athletically.”

At one point, you had this crazy idea in your head that you’d play on the Champions Tour. You’re like 55 now? But you thought before you were 50 that you were good enough that you’d be able to do that. So you must play a lot.

When I first retired, I was playing two, three times a week. You shoot 2 under every once in a while, you know, you think you may have a shot. But the problem with us is, we shoot 2 under one day and 8 over the next day, and that’s not gonna work. Jerry Rice is a better golfer than I am, and he learned that the hard way when he tried to do it. So but yeah, it’s one of those wild things you think about. I mean, when you’re an athlete, and you had some accomplishments, you sort of feel you can do whatever you put your mind to. But that would have been a difficult task, and I didn’t think about that too long. That’s for sure.

Who’s the best non-golfer athlete from Dallas you’ve played with? Mike Modano? He’s awesome.

It’s going to be one of these hockey players, for sure. Mike or Brett Hull, one of those guys. I mean, it’s sort of unfair, right? They’re used to hitting the puck moving 30 miles an hour, but now they get a stationary ball to hit. But Pudge is a good good player. Spud Webb is probably one of the most consistent players that I’ve played with for the last 25 years. I mean, he’ll shoot low 70s every time he goes out. Maybe not so much anymore. He’s had a knee replacement, hip replacement. But he’s still out there, trying to get it done. I haven’t played with Romo.

Of course! It’s Tony. At least Tony thinks he’s the best player in town.

Yeah, right. He tells everybody that.

You mentioned Spud’s hip replacement. You still have all your original parts. Your body seems to have survived the hell you put it through really well.

Well, look, I was very fortunate. Out of an unfortunate situation came a blessing, really. I tore two ligaments in my knee in 1989. The doctors pretty much told me that for the rest of my life, I had to take an anti-inflammatory. Being an athlete, when your doctor says that, you take the anti-inflammatory. Skipping up 12 years, I don’t know if you remember when Alonzo Mourning had the issue with his kidney and he had to have a kidney replacement. They said it was because he was taking too many anti-inflammatories. So I go my doctors hot, mad, wanting to cuss everybody out. But I didn’t. I was upset with them that they would put me in that position. What came out of that was I knew I couldn’t keep taking anti-inflammatories. Literally, I had not missed a day in 12 years. I ended up finding a company, Transformation Enzymes, an all-natural company. Long story short, man, I’ve been taking those products for 20 years. It helps me with the inflammation. I don’t know if I’ll be able to escape it the rest of my life or not, but, you know, I just finished a nice little workout on my Mirror. You’ve got to keep moving. Hopefully you can keep moving, right? That’s the name of the game.

A big part of that—you say keep moving—it’s not putting on those extra pounds. From the pictures on your Twitter feed, you’re keeping it together for sure.

Yeah. I mean, my wife would like to see me lose a little weight. [laughs] We’ve got our 25th anniversary coming up this year. She showed me a picture from the first year we were married and said, “This is what I need you to be like in four months.” I said, “We’re not gonna get there, baby. I can guarantee you that!” [laughs]

Tim, I’m going to take you back to when you were a bit lighter. I had to refresh my memory on some of your career, and I was going back to how, it seems to me, you got screwed out of a Super Bowl ring. It blows my mind going back and looking at it. I’m just gonna lay it out as quick as I can, and then my question’s gonna be, How fresh is this stuff in your mind?

OK, so you lose that playoff game in 2002, that crazy Tuck Rule thing that winds up becoming a 30 for 30. In the snow, Tom Brady fumbles the ball, but it’s ruled not a fumble, and then the game goes into overtime. You lose it. Then your coach, Jon Gruden, gets traded to Tampa, which is just something that never happens anymore. You guys wind up the next year facing your ex-coach in the Super Bowl, and I’ve heard you talk about how you think that the guy he left behind, Bill Callahan [who was promoted from assistant to head coach], hated the Raiders so much that you wonder if he didn’t throw the Super Bowl. OK, but even if that’s not what happened, your center, Barrett Robbins, he has a mental health issue, and he goes on a bender to Tijuana, so he can’t play in the game, and then Callahan uses all the same audibles that Gruden had installed with the Raiders, so the defense is able to tell exactly what your offense is about to do. You guys lose that Super Bowl.

When I was going back and reading about that, I’m like, if you put that in a movie, people would say that’s just too outlandish. It would never happen. When I tell you those chain of events, are you like, “Tim, that’s so many years ago. I don’t even think about it”? Or is that the kind of thing where you wake up every morning and go, “Son of a bitch. How did that happen?”

[chuckles] Yeah, I mean, you don’t wake up every morning and think about it, but certainly around Super Bowl time, you can’t help but think about it. Going back all the way to J.L. Long Middle School, I only ever had one shot at a championship. So for it to go down the way it did is very disappointing. We were so discombobulated as a team, we couldn’t have beaten the high school football team in San Diego that weekend. That’s how bad it was. So that’s the only thing that drives you nuts. You fight so hard to get there. It was year 15 for me. For things to go down in the fashion that they did, it’s very disappointing. So yeah, you know, I mean, you can’t get away from it, right? I usually don’t like to be in the Super Bowl city on the day of the Super Bowl. I usually try to get out. This year, I had some work I had to do right before the game. So I didn’t go to the game. But it’s a tough deal, man. It really is. It’s a tough deal. I mean, the older you get, as the years go by, you know that it’s not coming back. You’re not going to get that chance again. It doesn’t get any easier.

One more question about Gruden. Obviously, he had to step down last year from the Raiders for some stuff he’d put in emails. You defended him pretty quickly. Now that some time has elapsed, Tim, what’s your thinking on your on your former coach?

Look, without Gruden, I’m not in the Hall of Fame. That’s plain and simple. So from that standpoint, he’s gonna always be a big part of my life, and whatever I can do to help is what I’m gonna do. Now, in this particular situation, he has to help himself for me to be able to help him. If he’s out there doing the right thing, I’m gonna support it, but if he chooses not to, then I’m not gonna be, you know, browbeating him across the head. But at the same time, you know, I think silence says a lot. But he knows that he has the support of a lot of guys, especially if he wants to do the right thing.

OK, we have to talk about the Healing Hands Luncheon. What’s this deal you’ve got on March 31?

This is a really unique foundation. I had a one of my Woodrow Wilson football teammates, a guy younger than me, drop dead six months ago. You know, jogging down the court, refereeing a kid’s basketball game on Saturday morning. He drops dead. And his wife tells me that he really was sickly and wouldn’t go to the hospital. He would not go to the hospital to get checked out. I go to my doctor, who is pretty prominent in the neighborhood, and told her we need to do something. You know, we need to get these Black men together, and she was looking at me like, “Black men don’t go to doctors.” That was a slap in the face, you know. So I think anyway that you can get the word out there for people, it’s important. [HHM’s message: “Texas is currently experiencing a healthcare crisis, and in the past year, over 60 percent of Texas families have postponed or forgone medical care due to the cost. HHM Health has a sliding scale fee for all of our services.”] I know that the number in the African-American community has to be sky high. You have to get people to understand they have to go see doctors, even when you don’t have insurance, and that’s what HHM is doing: giving people who don’t have insurance the opportunity to go to a doctor, and not just when they’re sick.

And what do they have you doing at the luncheon at the Arboretum? Are you giving a keynote?

No, I think Joe Trahan and I will sit down and chat it up a little bit, and I’m sure we’ll talk sports. But I’m sure the majority of what we’re going to talk about is how we can get people to understand that this is what HHM does. You know people have issues, right, but at the same time, these issues can be dealt with if we get in front of the right people.

Tim, I’ve played golf before with Joe Trahan. He thinks he’s pretty good.

[laughs] He thinks he’s good at everything!

Why aren’t you still in broadcasting? You’re a handsome devil. Is it just because you were a Raider? They let Jason Witten do this stuff, man. If you had been a Dallas Cowboy, you’d be on television right now, don’t you think?

I did seven years, man. I did four years with Fox Sports and three years with ESPN, and it just hit me one day like a ton of bricks, man. I was calling an SEC game in Auburn, and I thought this was not my calling. I needed to be doing other things. So I have a little radio show I do on Sirius XM during the season, but that’s enough for me, man. I just couldn’t do it. I mean, I was gone three, four days a week. I just thought it was too much, man. So I chose to go and do something else, and I’m pretty happy with that. Well, these boys are making $20 million a year now, so maybe I made a mistake, right? [laughs] My wife looks at me like, “I told you that you should have stayed in it!” I’m like, “We’re gonna be alright, baby. We’ll be alright.”

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Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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