2015 is Tim Brown’s Year for Hall of Fame Induction

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Mr. Raider

Tim Brown, a Texas native, was a college phenom at Notre Dame, a fast, versatile athlete who could seemingly do it all with the ball in his hands. He set the school record for receptions by a freshman in his first year there, and by his sophomore year began earning the moniker “Touchdown Timmy” by scoring five touchdowns on only 43 touches, including a rushing TD and a kick return TD. In his Junior season under new coach Lou Holtz, he broke out, leading the team with 45 receptions and becoming a full-time kick returner for the Irish along with carrying the ball as a runner 59 times, earning him his first All-American honors. As a Senior in 1987, he was a receiver, a runner, a kick returner and a punt returner, amassing 1,847 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns on 130 touches. Notre Dame’s offense attempted a total of 166 passes in 1987 (including an incomplete pass by Brown himself), 82 were completed, 39 of those went to Tim Brown. He accounted for 59.7% of the Irish passing offense and caught three of the four passing touchdowns the team recorded all year. Brown also returned three punts for touchdowns that year. His abilities as an all-around player – and the fact that he did it for Notre Dame – earned him the Heisman Trophy in 1987, and put him on the top of a lot of NFL draft boards going into the 1988 NFL Draft.

The 1988 Raiders were a team in transition. After going 5-10 the year prior, the team had cut ties with two-time Super Bowl winning coach Tom Flores. Jim Plunkett, who had quarterbacked the team two to Super Bowl wins, had already departed, as had legendary deep threat Cliff Branch. Tight end Todd Christiensen and running back Marcus Allen were the only notable offensive players remaining from the team that had won Super Bowl XVIII. The Raiders had drafted Bo Jackson and Steve Beuerlein in 1987, and acquired Hall of Fame wideout James Lofton. For 1988, the Raiders added quarterback Jay Schroeder and wide receiver Willie Gault, but Al Davis wanted a game-breaker, someone who could be that deep vertical threat that Cliff Branch had been for many years. He saw that in the speedy Tim Brown, who he took with the 6th overall pick – one pick ahead of Sterling Sharpe and five picks ahead of Hall of Famer Michael Irvin.

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Notre Dame Football: Tim Brown enters the world of NFT's
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  • Brown had an impact right away for the Raiders: as a rookie, he led the team in receptions with 43 catches for 725 yards and 5 TD’s, surpassing Gault and Lofton (although “Swervin” Mervyn Fernandez finished with more yards), and added another 50 yards rushing with a TD on 14 carries. He also became the Raiders primary punt and kick returner, and excelled in the role: 1,542 return yards on 90 total returns, including a touchdown. He set the NFL record for all-purpose yards by a rookie, a record that still stands today, and earned his first Pro Bowl selection. Brown was injured early in the 1989 season, and did not return to the lineup full-time until the 1991 season, finishing second on the team in receptions and recording 929 all-purpose yards on his way to another Pro Bowl berth.

    In 1992 he led the team in receptions for the first time since his rookie year, and never looked back: he would lead the Raiders in receptions for nine consecutive seasons before his streak was broken by Jerry Rice in 2002 (Brown finished 3rd that year, Charlie Garner finished second). From 1993 through 2002, he would record at least 76 receptions and 900 yards in ten consecutive seasons.  In six of those seasons he recorded nine or more receiving touchdowns. Brown remained the Raiders’ primary punt returner through the 1996 season, and led the league in punt return yards in 1994. He would be selected to five consecutive Pro Bowls between 1993 and 1997. In 1997, he was named Second-Team All-Pro, leading the league with 104 receptions.

    Despite his efforts, the Raiders struggled during most of his career, and were exceedingly mediocre during his prime. The Raiders made the playoffs three times in four years between 1990 and 1993, winning two playoff games. Brown struggled in his first three playoff appearances (9 catches for 104 yards in those games) but had an excellent 1993 postseason averaging 26.6 yards per reception in a two-game run that included a 5-catch, 127 yard performance in a loss to eventual AFC Champion Buffalo.  The Raiders and Brown would not see the playoffs again until after the 2000 season, when Brown was already 34 years old.

    Brown was of course part of the great Raiders teams of the turn of the Millennium: he led the team in receptions in 2000 and 2001, and was a key part of the failed Super Bowl run in 2002, recording 81 receptions that season. He caught a single pass for nine yards in his only Super Bowl appearance, and then spent one more year in Oakland before heading to Tampa Bay to play out the last year of his career.

    Tim Brown played 17 years in the NFL, amassing 19,679 all-purpose yards, the fifth-highest total in NFL history. His 1,094 career receptions are good enough for fifth all-time, and he is one of only nine players ever to record 1,000 career receptions. His 100 career touchdown receptions puts him in a tie with Hall of Famer Steve Largent for 7th on the all-time list, and his 105 total touchdowns puts him at 17th all-time.  He was selected to eight Pro Bowls in his career, and was an All-Pro once. He was the best player on a some decent Raider teams, as well as on some mediocre Raider teams, and for better or for worse was the most recognizable and respected player in Silver and Black for most of the 1990’s. Brown played sixteen years with the Raiders, and his relationship with the franchise earned him the nickname “Mister Raider” around the league. Despite his lack of postseason success, he put together one of the best careers a wide receiver has ever had, despite often playing without a lot of help.