To call it voice mail is to demean and cheapen it. For these
were not phone messages so much as extemporaneous odes, prose
poems to a muse. Sherice Weaver would return to her office after
her lunch break, listen to her messages and then gather her
female colleagues, who would hear the voice of her fiance, Tim
Brown. A typical recording: "Hello, my love. Just called to tell
you that I missed you, that I thank the Lord every day for
sending such a wonderful woman into my life."
And so forth. When the message was finished, Sherice's friends
would sigh and say, "He can't be real." One day, after hearing
the latest of Tim's rhapsodies, one of Sherice's colleagues was
moved to tears. "Oh, Sherice," she blubbered. "He loves you so
Now it can be told: Brown, 31, the Oakland Raiders' Pro Bowl
flanker, has a romantic streak the width of Lincoln Kennedy, the
team's immense offensive tackle. Bully for Brown. It is not
enough for him to be one of the top five receivers in football.
It is not enough for him to be the owner of an apparel company,
to drive a black Porsche and have a walk-in closet full of
killer threads; to be bright and funny and possessed of a face
and body that would not be out of place in a Calvin Klein
underwear ad. Brown, apparently, will not be happy until the
significant other of every man in America turns to her partner
and says, reproachfully, "I wish you could be as romantic as Tim
The Browns, who celebrated their first anniversary on June 21,
are expecting a child this summer. By making it past the
one-year mark, Sherice and Tim have exceeded the longevity of
former Raiders coach Joe Bugel, who was fired in January after
one disastrous 4-12 season. Around that time Brown also flirted
with the idea of departing. Though he had tied Detroit Lions
wideout Herman Moore for the league lead with 104 receptions and
had played in his seventh Pro Bowl, he had become so weary of
Oakland's underachieving and the meddling of owner Al Davis that
"for a minute there," he says, "I didn't think I would be coming
July 5, 1998
Brown had the option of voiding the remaining years on his
contract. In February, however, after careful reflection, he
decided to stick with the team for which he has gained 8,588
receiving yards and played his entire 10-year NFL career. "To
leave after last season, I would have felt like a dog leaving a
fight with his tail between his legs," Brown says.
Clean-cut, well-spoken, sports editor of the school newspaper at
Dallas's Woodrow Wilson High and a Notre Dame graduate who won
the 1987 Heisman Trophy, Brown has always been a bit anomalous
as a Raider, a choirboy among Crips. Davis, the leader of the
Raiders gang, has long provided a home for the NFL's wayward
souls. The problem is that of late, his mercenaries have tended
to pack it in when the going got tough. Oakland dropped eight of
its last nine games in '97, after which Brown publicly suggested
that former Raiders coach and Hall of Fame offensive tackle Art
Shell be rehired to replace Bugel. "We needed someone who
commanded respect from the moment he walked in the room," says
Brown. "Art could do that with his size alone."
Despite the lobbying by his star receiver, Davis hired as his
new coach the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive coordinator,
34-year-old wunderkind Jon Gruden, who graciously dismisses
Brown's backing of Shell as a nonissue. Citing his coaching
experiences with the Eagles and the Green Bay Packers, Gruden
says, "Wherever I've been, the flanker's been my best buddy. In
Green Bay it was Sterling Sharpe, in Philly it was Irving
Fryar." After three minicamps Brown is sold on Gruden, or Groo,
as he is wont to call him over the phone, as in, "Yo, Groo,
what's going on?" During minicamp Brown was encouraged by
Gruden's hands-on teaching of the club's new offense. The system
bears a suspicious resemblance to the West Coast offense, though
none of the Raiders would dare to so dub it, considering the
scheme's association with their loathed cross-Bay rivals, the
San Francisco 49ers.
"It's the Silver and Black Attack," says onetime Niners
assistant Gruden, who stood across the line of scrimmage from
Brown at the minicamps and showed him how defensive backs would
react in certain situations. "I liked that," says Brown, "even
though I had to rough him up a little, knock him down a couple
times, just to show him he's with the Raiders now."
Brown is speaking inside a trailer--a Starwagon, to be
precise--across from Lot 21 at Universal Studios in Burbank,
Calif. Brown and some other NFL players were there last week to
shoot a candy bar commercial set up by Players Inc, the
licensing and marketing arm of the NFL Players Association. He
is gazing at a TV between takes when the Starwagon becomes
markedly more crowded. "What's up, Timmy?" says 243-pound
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, entering, then
making himself at home in the trailer of his fellow Golden
Domer. The conversation turns to the curious way the Raiders
have always used Brown.
"They wait until they're down 10, 14 points, then they say,
'Let's get Timmy in the game,'" says Bettis. It is Brown's
contention that while other receivers of his caliber have game
plans built around them, he has been, for much of his career, a
FEMA receiver--someone to go to in case of emergency. Shouts
Bettis, "See, Timmy, they don't want you to be the superstar
that you need to be, the superstar that you are!" If that sounds
ridiculous, considering that Brown has gained more than 1,000
receiving yards in each of the last five seasons, listen to Jeff
Hostetler, who quarterbacked the Raiders from 1993 to'96 and now
backs up Gus Frerotte for the Washington Redskins. "I had to
fight to get Timmy the ball," says Hoss. "The entire time I was
there, I was told to throw elsewhere."
After taking Brown with the sixth pick in the '88 draft, Davis
looked at him and saw a brilliant...third-down receiver and
return specialist. That's right: In his first four years in the
league, Brown the receiver had precious few chances to touch the
ball, surrounded as he was by such Davis favorites as Swervin'
Mervyn Fernandez and Willie Gault. Brown's most prolific
season--the one just passed--was, not coincidentally, the first
in which he bore almost no kick-return responsibilities. "You
know what?" he says. "It's kind of nice, sitting there on the
bench with a cold towel on your neck."
It was on a kickoff return in the opening game of his second
season that Brown tore the medial collateral and posterior
cruciate ligaments in his left knee. That injury, Brown figures,
cost him one or two tenths of a second off his 40 time. (He once
ran a 4.3.) Unaffected was his patented move, identified by
Oakland executive assistant Al LoCasale: "So many guys come
across the middle, catch the ball and stay on that path. As
Tim's coming across, he'll see an alley, shoot up it and turn a
15-yard gain into a 70-yard touchdown."
Brown is a courageous player, as willing to publicly criticize
Davis--a rare quality in this Kremlin-like organization--as he
is to go over the middle. Moreover, not only is Brown smart,
says sage Raiders cornerback Albert Lewis, who had to cover him
while with the Kansas City Chiefs, "but he gets smarter as the
game goes on. Tim is one of the best ever at setting guys up.
It's a chess game, and Tim's a grandmaster."
Grandmaster Brown had zero catches late in the third quarter of
Oakland's 24-21 opening-game overtime loss to the Tennessee
Oilers last season. He finished with eight receptions for 158
yards and three touchdowns. On his second score he snatched
quarterback Jeff George's pass out of the hands of an Oilers
defender and zigzagged 27 yards into the end zone. Afterward,
Raiders receivers coach and Hall of Fame wideout Fred
Biletnikoff, who knows from hellacious snags, shouted at Brown,
"That was the greatest catch I've ever seen!"
Late in the game, on fourth-and-16, Brown and George decided on
a play called F-in. In order to be the primary receiver, Brown
switched places with wideout Olanda Truitt. He then snagged a
pass from George in the back of the end zone for his third
touchdown, clinging to the ball despite absorbing a wicked shot
from free safety Marcus Robertson. "I lied," Biletnikoff told
him when Brown reached the sideline. "That was the greatest
catch I've ever seen."
It takes nerve to call your own number on fourth-and-16 in
crunch time, just as it takes moxie to proffer a forkful of
carrot cake to a beautiful stranger and say, "Girl, you gotta
taste this." These were among the first words Brown uttered to
his bride-to-be, whom he met at the wedding of former Raiders
(and current Chiefs) defensive tackle Chester McGlockton in the
summer of '96. Sherice was wearing a black-and-white polka dot
dress in the style of "the one Marilyn Monroe is wearing in the
famous picture," says Tim. She can't recall what he was wearing,
and didn't know who he was. She does remember this: "He stared
at me the whole time."
"I was just trying to see if you were wearing a lot of makeup or
if you were a natural beauty," he explains.
After making small talk with Sherice, Tim sought out the groom.
"Who is that girl?" he asked the world's largest yenta. Replied
McGlockton, with the happy serenity of the newly betrothed, "Get
out of my face, man--I've been trying to set you up with her for
Big Chet's instincts were true. "We're definitely soul mates,
that's what's so awesome," says Sherice. They have settled
comfortably into an in-season routine. Upon returning from
practice, Tim logs onto his computer, skims an on-line newspaper
and answers E-mail sent to him from his company's Dallas
headquarters. The company, Pro Moves International, sells
licensed women's sleepwear and loungewear, and is licensed to
sell NFL- and NHL-labeled intimate apparel. While Brown will
assume a more hands-on role with Pro Moves when he retires from
football, he and Sherice are thinking of attending law school
someday. Whence their interest in law?
"You mean he didn't tell you?" asks Sherice. About what? "About
his...addiction? He loves Court TV. He's a Court TV junkie."
"It's reality," says Tim, explaining why he's attracted to the
courtroom broadcasts. Sherice nods in agreement. At first she
disapproved of Tim's habit. In time, she found herself tuning in
to Court TV after he had left the house. Court TV triggers some
of their liveliest exchanges. Take the case the channel billed
as the Sexual Obsession Murder Trial. Despite persuasive
forensic evidence to the contrary, Sherice refused to believe
that the defendant, a 17-year-old boy, was guilty of killing the
mother of one of his friends.
Convinced of the teen's guilt throughout the trial, Tim remained
so at its conclusion. "Look how he walks out of the courtroom
after being convicted," he declared. "If I'm innocent, I'm
yelling, 'I didn't do it! You got the wrong guy!' Instead, he
just walks out like, 'All right, y'all got me.'"
To see the Browns together is to be assured that no Court
TV-related difference of opinion could threaten their bond. As
we leave them, they are entwined on a love seat... watching a
trial. They are holding hands, and the thought occurs that each
holds, in the other, a great catch.
After Tim's romantic messages, Sherice's friends would say, "He
can't be real."
"I had to fight to get Timmy the ball," says Hostetler. "I was
told to throw elsewhere."