When it comes to the receiver position at Notre Dame, Tim Brown was the G.O.A.T.
Today we turn to the wide receiver position as part of Slap the Sign’s “Best Players in Notre Dame History” series.
“Best” is one of those words that is difficult to define. In short, this is a very subjective process to say the least, whereby certain attributes are held in higher regard than others and vice versa depending on who is doing the evaluation.
With a football history as illustrious as Notre Dame’s, this task becomes even more difficult. As one thinks back to the great players of the past, it often becomes a matter of splitting hairs when it comes time to identify who is the “best” player to play particular positions. The task is made even harder as one attempts to compare players from different eras, eras that featured a brand of football that so little resembles the game we watch today.
In an attempt to account for the ever-shifting landscape of football, I tried to utilize a criteria that largely centered on consistent superior performance. Obviously, statistics were taken into account here, as well as the degree to which those statistics withstood the test of time in the Notre Dame history books.
While it is a bonus to be a part of a great team or even a championship team, especially considering that this player would have aided in attaining that championship, this really has little bearing on trying to find the best individual player to play a particular position. Again, I focused my efforts on being consistently elite over the course of the player’s time at Notre Dame — regardless of the performance of the team.
In this way, “Touchdown Timmy” Tim Brown has earned my vote for the best wide receiver in Notre Dame football history. Over his four years at Notre Dame, Brown exhibited a consistent elite level talent and a tenacious versatility that made him one of the most dangerous players in all of college football during his tenure.
Brown kicked off his career with the Fighting Irish by catching a freshmen record 28 balls for 340 yards. He stayed almost equally effective in his sophomore year when he hauled in 25 passes for 397 yards.
It was in his sophomore year that fans first saw just how versatile Brown could be. After this season where he averaged 24 yards on kickoff returns (including one that he took to the house), it was obvious that Brown’s potential for greatness extended far beyond catching the ball. As a junior, Brown accumulated 910 yards on 45 catches and added two more kick off returns for touchdowns.
He ended his junior year with an impressive performance against rival USC en route to a thrilling 38-37 come-from-behind victory. Brown racked up 254 all-purpose yards in the game which included a 56 yard punt return to set up the Irish for the win. His performance in this game helped to set the stage for his eventual greatness as a senior.
It was this senior year that solidified Tim Brown’s place in the college football history books and immortalized him at Notre Dame. Back-to-back punt returns for touchdowns early in the season against Michigan State kicked off a Heisman Trophy campaign that never slowed. Brown won the coveted award in 1987. He is the last Notre Dame football player to receive the Heisman Trophy.
The two-time All-American and 2009 College Football Hall of Fame inductee holds the Notre Dame record for all-purpose yards with 5,024, a feat he accomplished by doing a bit of everything for the Irish in his four years with the team. While he is listed primarily as a receiver, he proved to be an effective rusher out of the backfield and was a dazzling kickoff and punt returner. For his versatility, explosiveness, and consistent elite-level play, Tim Brown earns the title of Best Wide Receiver in Notre Dame history.