How Notre Dame football helped Tim Brown turn into a Fighting Irish legend

Discover how Lou Holtz helped transform Tim Brown from a solid Notre Dame recruit into a legendary star.
Former Notre Dame receiver Tim Brown in action.
Former Notre Dame receiver Tim Brown in action. / Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Before becoming a Heisman Trophy winner, a first-round NFL draft pick, and a Hall of Famer with the Raiders, Tim Brown was an unassuming Notre Dame football recruit from Dallas.

During his initial two seasons with the Fighting Irish, Brown's performance was commendable, with 53 receptions for 737 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 rushing TD. However, these numbers were a mere glimpse of the greatness he would achieve in his final two seasons in South Bend.

Things changed when Lou Holtz was hired by the Notre Dame football season after the 1985 season. Under the legendary coach’s guidance, Brown’s career was transformed. He became a legend at the school and one who put up eye-popping numbers despite the fact that Holtz’s offense was more about keeping the ball away from the opponent than putting up insane scores.

Earlier this week, Holtz reflected on his role in shaping Brown into the player who would go on to have a stellar NFL career, earning him a prestigious gold jacket and a place in Canton's Hall of Fame. 

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“Tim Brown was at Notre Dame when I got there. One of the first things you do, you look at the background of the athletes that are on your team,” Holtz began. “And I was surprised that Tim Brown, out of Dallas, played on a little high school that won two games and lost eight. He did not receive very many honors. You have no chance to succeed if you don't believe in yourself.”

“When I walked off that first practice at Notre Dame, the newspaper man said, well, what do you think? I said, well, I think Tim Brown is a marvelous athlete. I was very impressed with his athletic skills,” Holtz continued.

The former Notre Dame football coach then explained that part of the reason he said it was so it would get back to Brown. The strategy worked.

“Tim Brown came in my office a day or two later, and he said, ‘did you really mean that?’”

Holtz went on to say that once he talked to Brown and they discussed how good he could become with the Notre Dame football program, things really took off.