‘God made a way’: NFL Hall of Famer and ND Heisman winner speaks about leadership and faith
Liam Kelly | Monday, February 20, 2023
Former Notre Dame wide receiver and Heisman winner Tim Brown reflected on the importance of leadership and faith in his life during a lecture at Holy Cross College on Sunday.
Brown, who is also an NFL hall of famer, explained how influential leaders in his life inspired him to work hard as a young man. Brown often had to actively search out this leadership, he said, due to his fraught relationship with his father who often doubted his abilities.
“I did a lot of things in high school, trying to get my dad’s attention,” Brown said.
Brown found inspiration from the coaches on his high school football team who he credits with putting his life in the right direction.
“If not for the people that took me in as their own, I don’t know where I would be. I really don’t because at that time in my life, I could have gone either direction,” Brown emphasized.
Brown found another positive leader as a sophomore on the Notre Dame football team. Lou Holtz, who became the head coach of Notre Dame in 1984, put his full faith and confidence in Brown immediately.
“He told me, ‘I think you could be the best player in the country,’” Brown recalled.
Although Holtz may have believed in his football abilities, Brown himself had other plans. “I didn’t come here for this football,” Brown said he replied to Holtz, “I came here to get this education and go back home.”
Coach Holtz’s predictions would ultimately come to fruition, however, when Brown hoisted the Heisman trophy in 1987. Brown credits his success to Holtz’ influence.
“I was the best player in the country because I decided to follow leadership,” Brown said, “A great leader is able to see something in someone and is able to pull it out of him.”
In addition to recognizing the many great leaders in his life, he also emphasized that being exposed to leaders is not enough — a person needs to take that leader’s advice and turn it into action.
“It’s just amazing how when people don’t follow leadership, they want to point fingers at other folks,” Brown explained, “I’m glad that I decided not to do that.”
Despite all of the awards and accolades he received throughout his football career, Brown felt that something important was missing from his life.
“I realized that all of this good that I thought I was doing, it didn’t mean a thing. Because everything that I am supposed to be doing I should be turning this around and giving it back to God, but I am not. I’m using it for my benefit, for my enjoyment,” Brown explained.
“That was a problem for me for three, almost four years,” he said.
Brown described how these feelings culminated in a profound spiritual experience.
“I came home one night, I couldn’t sleep, tried to sleep, wanted to sleep, couldn’t sleep. At about 3:30 in the morning, I rolled out of bed and said ‘Lord save me and save me good,’” Brown recounted.
This moment completely recontextualized the way Brown went about his NFL career, influenced his experience of meeting his wife and helped rekindle his relationship with his father, he said.
“It really took the Spirit to show me my dad’s heart for me. The Spirit clearly showed me one time that my dad was doing the best he could,” Brown said.
Although he sometimes struggled with his faith, Brown explained that no matter what, “God made a way.”
For Brown, his focus on leadership and his devout faith go hand-in-hand. Concluding his remarks, Brown urged the audience to put their faith in God as their leader.
“If you’re looking for an authority figure in your life that’s gonna always 100% lead you in the right direction, I recommend you follow Jesus,” Brown said.