Q&A: Tim Brown
Notre Dame record-setter to get Silver Anniversary Award
Tim Brown, the 1987 Heisman Trophy winner, set two single-game, nine single-season and eight career records during his time at Notre Dame and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009. The nine-time Pro Bowl selection was drafted sixth overall in the 1988 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles (Oakland) Raiders. Brown serves as the national chairman and spokesperson for Athletes and Entertainers for Kids and 9-1-1 For Kids. Each year, Brown hosts the Tim Brown Charity Golf Classic to benefit 9-1-1 For Kids, and the Mentor Mini Camp at the Raiders’ headquarters for fatherless boys.
The Silver Anniversary Award honors former student-athletes and distinguished individuals are recognized on the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of their college athletics careers. Brown and fellow recipients Doris Burke, Kevin Johnson, Sean Payton, Amy Perko and David Robinson will be honored Jan. 13, 2012, during the NCAA Convention in Indianapolis.
Q: What would you say was your top academic achievement at Notre Dame?
Brown: …The one thing I love about Notre Dame is the fact that we didn’t stay in the athletic dorms, we lived with the other students. I have to tell you I learned more from the students there. One of my best friends ended up being a kid from China, Tony Lee. We are still best of friends today. I don’t think I would have gotten that anywhere else…There was only one other athlete in the whole dorm that I was living in so I think from that standpoint, yes, we talk about the education and what a great academic school, but for me what I took away from it was all the different relationships from people all over the world literally. I’m just so thankful that I had that experience.
Q: What was life like on campus for you as a student-athlete?
Brown: …We were literally student-athletes there. We were required to sit in the front rows of classes. There was never a situation where it was okay for us not to go to class or it was okay if we did [bad] on tests or anything of that nature. Your freshman year you were required to get tutoring; after that it’s if you need it. After my freshman year I didn’t need any more tutoring by the time we finished practicing.
We had no special anything there besides a training table and they had to feed us, right? Everyone was already done with dinner by the time we finished practicing. Besides that we really had nothing on campus that set us aside and the great thing about that is you don’t walk out of there thinking somebody owes you something, or looking for somebody to give you something. Everything that you earn in life, you are going to earn in life. That’s what they teach you there. When something goes wrong, you can’t go pointing fingers at other people. It’s all about you.
Q: While you were at Notre Dame how you did find a balance between sports, your studies and community involvement?
Brown: It’s just a part of the atmosphere; it’s how it is…When I won the Heisman I can remember Jim Nantz interviewing me and he asked some questions. He said, “A lot of people think that because you went to the University of Notre Dame, it helped you get to this position of possibly winning the Heisman Trophy.” [They were interviewing the candidates before.] I said to him, “Jim, I didn’t go to the University of Notre Dame to win the Heisman Trophy. I went there to get a great education; if it helps me win the Heisman Trophy than that is just icing on top of the cake for me.”
Q: What expectations does Notre Dame hold for student-athletes?
Brown: If you are student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame, you are expected to do great things. Not good things, you are expected to do great things. You go to that university because you have all these contacts and all these things that are accessible to you and it’s up to you to utilize them in the proper way. The great thing about what the university does, it doesn’t put you in a position where you are going to walk away from that place used to people handing you stuff…
Q: Why is giving back important to you?
Brown: You’re in a position for a reason…God put you in a position for a reason and you have to give back. I was on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 1996 for athletes and celebrities who had given back. Not for how many touchdowns I’ve caught, not for the Heisman Trophy, but for celebrities who are doing philanthropic work. I told her, and it’s what I say all the time, “At the end of the day I sleep a lot better at night because I know I tried to change somebody’s life in a very positive way.”
Q: How did you get involved with Athletes and Entertainers for Kids?
Brown: …I went to a miniature golf tournament for at-risk kids in Southern California and that was it. That was 1992. I took over the next year in ‘93. We did a couple of miniature golf tournaments and then for the last 18 years we’ve done [we still count the miniature golf tournaments], but we’ve done a full golf tournament for 18 years. We expanded from that to 9-1-1 Kids, teaching kids proper use of 911. Then we expanded from that to the Tim Brown Mentor Mini Camp and that’s really my baby. The Mentor Mini Camp. That’s the one event that I have opportunity to [I have 150 to 175 fatherless boys out there] and I get a chance to really put my hands on them, rub ‘em on the head, shoot ‘em a couple of elbows and let them know somebody cares for them. It’s only one day. I understand that, but we try and hook them up with mentor dads in hopes that those mentor dads will keep in touch with these kids. That’s a program that I can’t wait for every year because that’s the one that, like I said, I really, really feel good about.