COMMENTARY | He has gray hair now and he was walking with a cane when I saw him being interviewed on television before the Philadelphia Eagles played the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday. Other than that, he still looked a lot like the Timmy Brown that I remembered as my first sports hero.
Howard Eskin, the television commentator, remembered Timmy from the 1960 National Football League championship game. Brown's contribution to the last Eagles championship was one kickoff return for 20 yards in that game against the Green Bay Packers. But by the mid-60s, Timmy Brown had blossomed into one of the league's best all-around running backs while playing on some really dreadful Philadelphia teams. Brown was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1962, 1963 and 1965, back when just players and coaches chose the all-stars. The Eagles' record was a combined 10-29 over those three seasons.
As far as I was concerned, you could keep Jimmy Brown and his Cleveland Browns, even though he always claimed the seasonal rushing title. To me, Timmy Brown was the best around. He wore No. 22. I had a blue football jersey with 77 on it. One day I complained to my uncle about my bad luck that it wasn't the 22 of my favorite player. He immediately got some masking tape and fixed the problem. The alteration actually turned it into ZZ, but it was close enough for me. I was Timmy Brown until the tape peeled off.
I was lucky enough to see him play in person in 1965 when my dad took me to see the Eagles play the Pittsburgh Steelers in a preseason game at Allentown (Pa.) School District Stadium, maybe three miles from our house. Early in the third quarter, Timmy took a hand-off, swept right end and rambled 62 yards for a touchdown. I still have the newspaper that reported on the game the next day.
The last game of Timmy's career was Super Bowl III when he returned punts for the Baltimore Colts against Joe Namath's New York Jets. Two weeks earlier, he had rushed for a touchdown late in the Colts' rout of the Cleveland Browns in the NFL championship game. I had hoped to see him take it to the house one last time in what would become a landmark Super Bowl, but it didn't happen that day for him or the heavily-favored Colts.
That's the Timmy Brown that I remember fondly. But there are many more Eagles fans who remember him best as the player who began decades of hatred of the Dallas Cowboys.
It was a December game in 1967, Timmy's final season with the Eagles. He was 30-years-old and no longer the Eagles' featured running back. Philadelphia was playing out the string and losing badly to the Cowboys in Dallas when after a play to the other side of the field late in the game, Brown reportedly was blindsided by linebacker Lee Roy Jordan, who threw a vicious elbow to Timmy's facemask and broke his jaw. Observers say after the incident, Jordan even stood over the fallen Brown and taunted him.
Apparently it was payback for Timmy returning two kickoffs for touchdowns in a win over the Cowboys the previous season. No player had ever done that before in one NFL game. Only four others have done it since.
And ever since that payback, no team in any sport has evoked more pure animosity from Philadelphia sports fans than the Dallas Cowboys.
Timmy Brown is now 76. After Super Bowl III, he had roles in M*A*S*H, both the movie and television series. He was removed from TV series during the first season when producers discovered no black surgeons had participated in the Korean War. His acting career never amounted to much from that point. He was inducted in the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame in 1990 and returned last Sunday as an honorary captain for the win over the Cardinals.
He also was the ignition point almost half a century ago for the Eagles' feud with the Cowboys. But for people like me who saw him play, he was a whole lot more than that.
Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Eagles follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards.
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