Tim Brown played for Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, Texas, the same school as 1938 Heisman Trophy winner Davey O'Brien. Despite his contributions, the team fared poorly, with a 4-25-1 record over his three years as a starter. Nevertheless, Brown was heavily recruited by major colleges. His five official visits were to Notre Dame, Nebraska, Oklahoma, nearby SMU and Iowa.
Brown chose Notre Dame and played there from 1984-1987, earning the nickname "Touchdown Timmy." In his first year, he set a freshman record with 28 receptions. As a junior, he set a record with 1,937 all-purpose yards. He made the College Football All-America Team twice and won the Heisman Trophy in 1987, becoming the first wide receiver ever to win the award. His alma mater, Woodrow Wilson High School, became the first high school in history to produce more than one Heisman winner; as of 2007, Woodrow is still the only public high school with two winners. During that year, he caught 34 passes for 846 yards, returned 34 punts for 401 yards, rushed for 144 yards, and gained 456 yards on 23 kickoff returns. He also scored eight touchdowns. Brown finished his career at Notre Dame with 137 receptions, a school record 5,024 all-purpose yards, and 22 touchdowns.
He was selected by the Los Angeles Raiders in the 1988 NFL Draft. In his first NFL season, he led the league in kickoff returns, return yards, and yards per return average. He also led the NFL in punt returns in 1994, and receptions in 1997. He was voted to the Pro Bowl nine times, in 1988 and 1991 as a kick returner, and in 1993-97, 1999 and 2001 as a receiver. In 2001, Brown would later play alongside another well-known wide receiver, Jerry Rice. On December 9, 2001, Brown returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown in a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs, making him the oldest player in NFL history to score a touchdown on a punt return. In 2002 he passed Gene Upshaw to become the Raiders' all-time leader in games played with 224. He also set Raiders franchise records for receptions, receiving yards, and punt return yards. He has a total of 19,682 yards, ranking #5 amount the NFL's all-time leaders in that category.