Before he retired after the 2004 season, former Oakland Raider Tim Brown caught over a thousand passes for nearly 15,000 yards and scored 105 career touchdowns. But never once did the nine-time Pro Bowler attempt an NFL pass.
On Tuesday, Brown brought his arm out of retirement to throw passes to 60 mostly fatherless and disadvantaged youth, along with 50 volunteer dads at the 9-1-1 for Kids/CHP Tim Brown Mentor Mini Camp at the California Highway Patrol's Academy in West Sacramento.
The 44-year old Brown, dressed in sweat pants and a white camp T-shirt, led the group in a series of football drills and games for four hours, before rain set in and the camp retired to an auditorium where Brown signed autographs and talked to the kids about the importance of staying positive.
"If there's one thing these kids take away, I hope it's that tomorrow can be a brighter day," Brown said.
Brown is the national chairman of 9-1-1 for Kids, a program to help kids learn to use 9-1-1 responsibly, and is now in his 13th year running the Mentor Mini Camp.
"Most of these campers are foster kids who might not even know who their parents are, and that creates a lot of issues for them," Brown said. "They don't know who to trust without a consistent father figure. Most of them just shut down."
But even those kids who usually "shut down" perked up at the chance to run routes with the 1987 Heisman Trophy winner.
Ten-year-old Denzel James of Sacramento played it coy when asked if he knew anything about Brown, before spouting off numerous facts about the career of "Mr. Raider." "It was a lot of fun," Denzel said. "I liked doing all the drills, and getting to play with him (Brown) was really cool."
Elise Kim, founder and CEO of 9-1-1 for Kids' umbrella organization, Athletes and Entertainers for Kids, said that Brown's dedication goes well beyond signing autographs and lending his name to the event.
"In Tim's research, he recognized the situation of fatherlessness and its devastating impact," Kim said. "He wanted to do something that directly affected these young men and incorporated football with a mentoring program."
West Campus High School football coach Gary Roezler, who has been a part of the camp all four years it has been in the area, runs Playmakers, a mentoring model based in Sacramento that trains high school kids to mentor using football.
"Tim and I partnered up because we have values that are very similar," Roezler said. "These kids have no stable male role models, and many are behind the education eight ball already. This is a chance to learn good values, build character and consider serving in the community."
When he wasn't barking out commands to the camp, which had several other local youth and high school coaches on hand to go over basic football skills, coach "Roz" was busy cracking jokes on the sideline. And on the surface, the scene resembled many of the youth football camps held every summer.
But Brown, who resides in Dallas, stressed how personal this issue of "fatherlessness" is to him, and how important it is for him to continue mentoring.
"No matter how much other (NFL) players love helping kids, it won't be the same, and that's no disrespect to them," he said. "I just don't think they can talk about things and get through to these kids the way I can. This is truly my passion."