Timmy Brown, the Eagles running back and returner who was one of the franchise’s signature players of the 1960s, has died at age 82, the team announced Tuesday.
A native of Indiana, Brown was living in Southern California with his son Sean at the time of his death, which Sean Brown said was due to complications from dementia.
“He was such a kind, warm person,” his son said. “He was a really good man ... there was no facade, no fakeness.
"He had a very tough childhood, so he made sure that I had a very happy, very good one."
Timmy Brown was one of six children and spent time in an orphanage and in foster care before going to Ball State University with the intention of becoming a teacher, his son said. The Green Bay Packers drafted him in 1959′s 27th round and cut him after one game. He was picked up by the Eagles and took special pride in being part of the 1960 NFL championship team that defeated the Packers in the title game.
Brown, 5-foot-11, 198 pounds, led the NFL in all-purpose yardage in 1962 and ’63. In 1966, he became the first player in the league to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game, as the Eagles upset Dallas, 24-23, at Franklin Field.
The next time he faced the Cowboys, Lee Roy Jordan hit Brown in the face with an elbow, after a pass to Brown fell incomplete. Brown lost nine teeth and suffered a concussion; he later called it the dirtiest hit he ever took.
Sean Brown said the family assumes Brown’s football career led to his dementia, which developed over the past decade.
In 1968, the Eagles traded Brown to the Colts. He retired after their loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III.
“Timmy Brown was an all-time great Eagle and one of the most dynamic multipurpose players of his era. He overcame many obstacles in his life to enjoy success both as an athlete and as an entertainer,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. “A three-time Pro Bowler and member of our 1960 NFL Championship team, Timmy excelled as a running back and return specialist with his incredible athleticism and signature versatility. He was one of the most exciting players to watch during his career. Those who knew him well have said they will remember him for his outgoing, uplifting personality and the connections he built with his teammates and the community. Our thoughts are with his loved ones during this time.”
Brown, inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame in 1990, ranks seventh in Eagles history for yards from scrimmage (7,049), eighth in rushing (3,703 yards), seventh in rushing touchdowns (29), and sixth in total touchdowns (62).
In 2001, Brown told Daily News reporter Kevin Mulligan" “I was never booed. I couldn’t have played in a better place.”
His best friend from his playing days was flanker Tommy McDonald. Sean Brown said he hated telling his father about McDonald’s passing in 2018, though he knew his father wouldn’t retain the memory.
“He loved returning kicks,” his son said. “He just loved the idea of the obstacle, getting past every defender. It’s kind of a testament to who he was: Whatever the most difficult thing was, that’s what he was going to do. ... Even in later days, he dreamed about catching that kickoff and having a chance to burn everybody on the defense.”
In 2003 when Lincoln Financial Field opened, the Eagles got actor Sylvester Stallone to make a surprise appearance. Stallone wore a No. 22 jersey in honor of Brown, his boyhood hero.
Brown went to Hollywood and enjoyed a solid acting career, including roles in the Robert Altman films M*A*S*H and Nashville, and briefly, the ensuing M*A*S*H TV series. His son said that though he aspired to be a serious actor and was respectful of the craft, he greatly enjoyed action roles in 1970s “Blaxploitation” films. He was reported to have dated Diana Ross.
He later became a Los Angeles parole officer. His son said a lot of Brown’s work was at Camp Kilpatrick, a California juvenile detention facility that inspired the 2006 movie Gridiron Gang.
“When I was growing up, he worked there,” said Sean Brown, 32, now a stage actor in the Los Angeles area. He said his father could relate to the detainees, from his own bleak childhood. “Everybody loved him at the camp, the kids and staff alike. The kids especially. He was a lot of fun for them, even though they were in a place that wasn’t necessarily going to be fun for them. He treated them with a lot of respect and showed them a lot of love, even though these kids didn’t really get a lot of that in their lives.”
Brown is survived by his son, two grandchildren, and a sister, Della Mitchell. Funeral services are being postponed due to coronavirus concerns. Sean Brown said the family hopes to hold a memorial service on May 24, which would have been Timmy Brown’s 83rd birthday.