SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Tim Brown never considered himself a standout collegiate football player until Lou Holtz convinced him of it.
Brown was ready to accept the role of regularly contributing wide receiver at Notre Dame until Holtz arrived after the 1985 season. During the second day of spring practice, following Brown's sophomore season, Holtz called him over and asked why he hadn't been on the field more for the Fighting Irish during his first two seasons.
Brown told him it was a decision by the previous coaching staff. Holtz didn't believe him.
"He yelled at me, 'Son, there's no way a coach could be so dumb as to not play you,'" Brown recalled him saying.
Holtz told Brown the only way he wasn't going to get the ball during the upcoming season was if the defense intercepted the snap from center.
"He not only said it, but he was putting me in that position time after time after time," Brown said. "The more I succeeded, the more he kept putting me in that position and the more confidence I got."
Brown turned that confidence into an outstanding final two years with the Irish, becoming the last Notre Dame player to win the Heisman Trophy in 1987. He heads a class of 24 players who will be enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Among the others being honored are former Miami quarterback Gino Torretta, who won the Heisman in 1992; Penn State running back Curt Warner; Ohio State linebacker Chris Spielman; West Virginia quarterback Major Harris; and John Robinson, who coached Southern California and UNLV.
Brown, who touched the ball 79 times for 1,240 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns his first two seasons at Notre Dame, touched the ball 131 times as a junior, setting a school record with 1,937 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns.
"Knowing that Lou had confidence in me to make that play when he needed it to be made just really fueled my fire to make things happen," he said.
Although his junior year was his best statistically, the game he most remembers and gets asked about by fans was during his senior season. That's when Brown returned back-to-back punts for touchdowns against Michigan State.
Brown said he was only trying to score on the first one, a 71-yard return. The Irish were trying to block the second punt, and Brown just wanted to get out of bounds.
"I was running to the sideline and one of their defenders made me cut inside. I didn't want to because I was still tired from the last punt return," he said. "When he did that, there was nobody there."
Fans frequently ask him what it felt like to return back-to-back punts for touchdowns.
His reply: "Tiring."
"If you see it, you can see I'm so tired that once I get to the end zone I just flip the ball. I'm about to pass out," Brown said.
Brown was worried that the enshrinement festival might not be held in South Bend after Hall of Fame officials announced last September the facility will move to Atlanta. They have not yet announced when it will close in South Bend, but construction in Atlanta has not yet begun.
"I had the opportunity to wrap up by college career where I started my high school career, here in Dallas," Brown said. "It's something I'm glad they got me in this year so I can be back in South Bend."
Others being enshrined include: New Mexico State halfback Pervis Atkins; Maryland Eastern Shore halfback Emerson Boozer; Marshall wide receiver Troy Brown; Arizona defensive back Chuck Cecil; Auburn fullback Ed Dyas; BYU tight end Gordon Hudson; Cal Lutheran linebacker Brian Kelley; Harvard center William Lewis; Alabama linebacker Woodrow Lowe; Stanford receiver Ken Margerum; UMass tight end Milt Morin; Texas lineman Steve McMichael; Iowa linebacker Larry Station; Georgia Tech defensive end Pat Swilling; and Nebraska defensive end Grant Wistrom.
The coaches being enshrined are Dick MacPherson, who coached at UMass and Syracuse; Willie Jeffries, who coached at Howard, Wichita State and South Carolina State; and Ted Kessinger, who coached at Bethany.