Tim Brown played nearly his entire NFL career with the Raiders, first in Los Angeles and then Oakland. He was their first-round pick in 1988 after winning the Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame. He helped the Raiders reach Super Bowl XXXVII. He finished his career with one season in Tampa Bay in 2004. When he retired, his 14,934 receiving yards were second-highest total in NFL history. Brown will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.
ThePostGame: Hey Tim, thanks for taking the time out to talk to us during this busy week of yours. First off, what is going on these days with you and TGI Fridays? There's something going on August 7?
TIM BROWN: We are having an event at TGI Fridays at the Canton location. Raider Nation, some of my Notre Dame boys ... we're all getting together for a little private celebration. Should be a great, great night. I love TGI Fridays, big fan going back almost 30 years now so no better restaurant for me to partner with on this occasion than TGI Fridays. So I'm looking forward to being with them on Friday evening.
TPG: So you're set to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You've spent six years waiting. How you feeling right now?
BROWN: Doing great, man. You know, really looking forward to this weekend. Monday is gonna be a beautiful day, I can tell you that. It's just gonna be the best day ever. All this will be behind me and I'll be able to relax and really start to enjoy the fact that you're a Hall of Famer. So there's been so much going into this weekend, from the parties to the beach to all the travel, your family. Boy, I can't wait to get back home Monday and just start living the regular life.
TPG: Do you feel that this selection is overdue? Or do you understand that there is a logjam in Canton and that this is how the process is at the moment?
BROWN: Yeah. I mean you play 20 years ago and you probably wouldn't have had that issue. But in today's football, when you look at the guys that I was out with. When Jerry [Rice] came out, everybody knew what was gonna happen with him. Cris [Carter] had been out for a while, everyone knew that he was gonna be in first ballot. So I think they just wanted to make the position special and the next couple years nobody went in and I think those years were the toughest years for Cris and Andre and myself. Watching the Hall of Fame go by a couple years without any wide receivers in it. But after that, man, Cris went in, Andre went in, you can't help but be happy for them and at the same time you hope that the next year is gonna be yours and thankfully it was.
TPG: Touching on the state of wide receivers in football. You were the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy. Do you feel that wide receiver is undervalued in today's game? Why do you think it is that wide receivers have a hard time getting appreciation?
BROWN: In today's game it's totally different, man. These guys are throwing the ball 40, 45 times a game, probably more than that in college. So it makes it very difficult to say, "I'm something special," when everybody is catching 10, 12, 13 balls a game. So I think from that point of view, you have a lot of great receivers come out and none of them really come close to winning the Heisman
I guess Amari [Cooper] was top five last year. But the reason they're not winning the Heisman is because the way Desmond [Howard] and I did it was by returning a bunch of kickoffs. So I think you really have to set yourself apart from just being a receiver. When I came out, we had Michael Irvin and Sterling Sharpe and Wendell Davis and all these great receivers. But the difference between me and them was the fact that I returned a bunch of kickoffs and it was probably the reason that I went higher in the draft than those guys.
TPG Do you agree with the current state of football where coaches are keeping their stars away from kick returns to avoid injury?
BROWN: Nah, not to keep them from being injured. This is football, man. You can jog on the field and step in a pothole and get injured the way some of these fields are. You gotta be able to play the game and be free and just understand who you are and what you are capable of doing. As long as you aren't putting yourself in a bad situation time after time, you should be OK. But to me, sometimes it is much more dangerous playing wide receiver and going across the middle of the field than it is returning kickoffs.
TPG: I heard that you had to keep football a secret from Mom. Back in high school she wanted you to stick to marching band. Why did you end up keeping it a secret?
BROWN: My mom she looked at football as the anti-Christ. Literally, she thought that her son was gonna get swooped up into that world of being all arrogant and that kind of stuff and she just didn't want that for me. So it was a process, no doubt about it. The better I kept doing, the more she realized I'm playing great football but I'm not being arrogant about the situation so I think she got a little bit more comfortable with me playing.
I was in the marching band my freshman year. She just wanted me to stay in the band. I was going to all the Friday night games my freshman year. So the next year when I was playing on varsity, I was obviously still going to Friday night games so she thought I was still playing in the band. So it wasn't until I had a really good play my sophomore year and I made the paper and one of her friends called her and said, "Hey, your son is in the papers." So she came at me like, "What did you do, what did you do, why are you in the paper?" And all I could say was "I don't know, I didn't know I was in the paper." So we looked at every section and finally when we got to the sports section and saw my face, I had a picture of me running the ball and it read, "Sophomore Sensation." So that was the beginning of the end right there.
TPG: What instrument did you play?
BROWN: I played the bass drum. I played percussion but as a freshman band member, you get the hardest instrument and the hardest thing was carrying that big bass drum around! So that's what I did. I was gonna be moving up to the small bass drum the next year but I obviously didn't make it that far.
TPG: Throughout your whole career, whether at Woodrow Wilson [High School], Notre Dame or in Oakland, you weren't always on a winning team. A lot of young athletes struggle with winning and individual performance. How did you keep yourself from getting discouraged and stick with it? What helped get you through?
BROWN: My time at Woodrow, man, I was 4-25-1 during my three years on varsity. One thing happened to me in my junior year: One of my coaches really, really got on me about continuing to play hard. "Keep pushing, Tim. Don't let the circumstances stop you from playing." And that's what I did, man. I just kept playing the game and enjoying what I was doing and especially when I knew there were colleges looking at me. Then it was certainly a lot easier to keep myself working. But it certainly taught me something. We had rough times at Notre Dame my first couple years and had a few rough years with the Raiders but I was always able to reach back and think to those times when I was in high school and I think that just kept me playing and playing my best ball whether or not we were playing good football as a team.
TPG: You had 17 quarterbacks throwing to you, not counting the three in Tampa Bay. Who was your favorite to catch passes from?
BROWN: I'm gonna list all of them on Saturday night. For me, I had a great relationship with Steve Beuerlein because we had played together three years in college. So he was probably my favorite quarterback to play with. But obviously I had the most success, the season-record with the Raiders, with Jeff George. He was an incredible quarterback as far as throwing the ball. He could put the ball wherever it needed to be. So it was amazing to have that one year with him. But Rich Gannon was probably the best overall quarterback that I played with and the numbers probably bear that. We had an incredible year together; it was great playing with Rich.
TPG: How do you feel about the Raiders' potential move from Oakland to Los Angeles and where is home for the Raiders in your heart?
BROWN: The original name of the team is the Oakland Raiders so there is no doubt that the home for the Raiders is in Oakland. But the problem is I don't know if the home city can afford the team. So that being the case, it will be very difficult for them to stay there. I know they want to stay there and that's where they want to be but at the same time, they are gonna have to find a way to come up with a couple hundred million dollars to keep the team around.
TPG: As a Duck, I have to have them winning the national championship this season. Who do you have winning the college football national championship? Notre Dame?
BROWN: You got the Ducks winning? Without Marcus Mariota!? I can't pick them to win. I think it's gonna be a very interesting year in college football. I don't know how good Alabama is gonna be without Amari Cooper and a couple other guys they lost, but you know they're gonna come up with something and the SEC is gonna have a tough team. Notre Dame is gonna be pretty good this year. Man, I hadn't thought about college football. I can't think about anything but the Hall of Fame right now! Tell you what, though. My money is definitely not gonna be on the Ducks right now. I gotta see them and their new quarterback play before I can put that kind of pressure on them.
TPG: Last question. You caught 1,100 passes in your professional career alone. How do your fingers feel?
BROWN: Actually they're fine. You know, I wore that tape around my joints, so it really kept my joints in place. I'm not having any issues. I actually almost broke my pinky a little while ago so it looks like a football injury but it's not. Actually, it was flag football and I won a truck. So I guess it wasn't the worst thing. So every time I look down at my bent finger, I remember that I'm driving around in a brand new truck, so that helps. But the fingers are doing pretty good right now, brother.