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    RALEIGH, N.C. - A voice mail message from NC State athletics director Debbie Yow threw the ACC’s all-time leading rusher for a loss.

    “She said she had some good news for me," recalled Ted Brown, who was left wondering what in the name of Tom O’Brien might be on Yow’s mind.

    Later, Brown got the “good news” -- that he’s among 10 Wolfpack luminaries in NCSU’s first Athletics Hall of Fame class.

    That surprised him. It shouldn’t have.

    In the school’s storied football history, no other halfback has run as far, scored as many touchdowns, or dazzled defenses like the High Point native who went on to play eight seasons with the NFL Minnesota Vikings.

    Shifty, speedy and strong, he was Touchdown Brown with the Pack, scoring 51 TDs and rushing for 4,602 yards, both ACC records that still stand 34 years after his last college carry.

    Now living in Apple Valley, Minn., and working with the Ramsey County Juvenile Probation department, Brown hasn’t forgotten how close he came to frittering away his opportunity at State.

    HANG IN THERE!

    Back in 1975 he was a forlorn, frustrated freshman running on the Pack scout team. A few weeks into the season, thoughts of quitting or transferring weighed heavily on his mind.

    “I was getting very, very discouraged," Brown remembers.

    Enter Bishop Harris, then an assistant coach.

    “He probably saved my career," Brown said of Harris. “He picked me up one morning, drove me around a couple of hours. He told me to ‘hang in there. Hang in there. You’ll get a shot'."

    Tired of riding, Brown eventually replied: “Okay. Okay. I’m not going'.”

    Then he did hang in there and soon got his shot,  as Harris predicted.

    After a fumble-plagued loss at Michigan State, head coach Lou Holtz decided on the plane flight home to start Brown, who hadn’t even made the road trip to MSU. He had run wild in a jayvee game against Chowan, however.

    Unleashed at Indiana the following week, Brown dazzled in his varsity debut, rushing for more than 100 yards. And as the saying goes, “the rest is history.”

    “That changed our football team once he got in there,” said Holtz, not to mention how it changed Brown’s career path.

    “He was one of the greatest backs I ever coached," Holtz added. “He was so smooth, effortless, had speed, balance, strength and could catch the ball.

    "Somebody asked me if he could block. I said ‘I don’t know.’ I didn’t ask him to block. You give him the ball and let other people block.”

    That’s what the Pack did. And Brown ran up and down the field. He made first-team All-ACC four years and consensus All-American in 1978, when State retired his No. 23 jersey.

    “Best back I’ve ever been around," said former quarterback Johnny Evans, who also played in the NFL and Canadian Football League. “What separated him was his balance. It was so hard to knock him off his pins.

    “He was so consistent...our go-to-guy, our workhorse. With Ted you knew what you would get -- 125-150 yards rushing, a TD or two, no turnovers.”

    Brown was a Saturday Hero.

    Still etched in the mind’s eye was that 95-yard touchdown run at Syracuse, where legendary Jim Brown once romped.

    And there was the school-record 251-yard rushing performance in a home loss to Penn State, whose Nittany Lions were virtually clawing themselves in a futile effort to stop him.

    Yet the turning point in his Wolfpack career came the day he didn’t play -- the day Holtz decided to start him after the loss at Michigan State.

    “For me, it was a great time,” Brown said of his NC State days. “The camaraderie and closeness (with teammates) we still have to this day. It was like having 60 brothers. I enjoyed it so much.

    “I think kids (who leave early) are really missing out. I understand the money aspect is a determining factor. The money will be there. But no amount of money can do what the experience of being in college can do for you.”

    CHILLS & MORE THRILLS

    A first-round pick in the ’79 NFL draft, Brown had to adjust to a colder climate and more violent football in Minnesota.

    So he did.

    Durable and tough at 5-10, 206 pounds, Brown was productive over an eight-season period, peaking in 1981. That year he rushed for 1,063 yards and caught 82 passes for 694 yards.

    “There were some good times,” said “Touchdown Teddy,” his nickname with the Vikings.

    He completed his career in 1986 with the fifth most TDs (53) in franchise history and his 4,546 rushing total ranks third on the team’s all time list.

    DIFFERENT PACE

    Brown, married with three children, didn’t fade away after retiring from football. He stayed in Minnesota, goes to the Vikings’ training camp on Alumni Day, signs autographs, and is involved with a team charity, plus a few other fund raisers in the community.
     

    Along with wife Brenda, he’s also keeping up with their active children. LaTasha was into dancing and said is striving to create a professional music career.

    J.T. recently signed with the NHL Tampa Bay Lightning after starring in college at Minnesota-Duluth.

    “He has always been there as someone to lean on,” J.T said of his father in a Tampa Bay website story. “He and the rest of my family have always really supported me. I can’t thank them enough.”

    In addition to supporting his own children, father Ted has been trying to help troubled youth the past 17 years in his juvenile probation work.

    “You get a chance to make a difference in kids’ lives -- talking, helping them out, also being firm enough," said Brown, who doesn’t flaunt his football fame as a way to reach them.

    Now 55 years old, he admits to moving in a slower gear. Father Time, two knee surgeries, a shoulder separation and other violent hits from his playing days inevitably change every running back’s pace.

    But Brown has no regrets.

    “I’m not complaining about it," he said. “I chose to play sports and understand what comes with it.  I can still walk and play golf. I’m healthy enough to get around...I’ve been blessed.”

    By A.J. CARR, GoPack.com


     

     

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