This week, we’re featuring a guest blog from my friend Tim Brown, the former Heisman Trophy winner and all-pro wide receiver. Even better, he’s a committed dad. I’ve had the privilege to know Tim for over 30 years now, and I’ve seen him beat the odds in many different areas of life, especially as a father and a mentor. I know today’s blog will encourage you.
Every boy dreams of growing up to be a man, in every sense of the word. Figuring out what that looks and sounds like might be the primary mission of boyhood. The first place he’s going to look is his dad.
As I write this, my son Timothy Jr. is ten years old. He looks a lot like I did at his age, and probably acts a lot like me too, ready to pick up a ball and play a game on a moment’s notice.
Timothy is like me in another way—he’s always watching and listening to his dad. He probably doesn’t realize it yet, but he’s trying to figure out what it means to be a man.
I ask him all the time, “What’s your name, boy?”
“Tim Brown,” he’ll say.
“That’s right. Don’t you ever forget that. That’s a special name.” Sometimes I add, “And remember, when I’m not here, you need to take care of things. You’re the man of the house.” You can see Timothy’s back straighten and his chest stick out a little more when I tell him that.
I’ve gotten in trouble for that one, though. I was traveling recently, and my wife asked me over the phone, “Tim, what did you say to your son? I’m trying to get him to bed, and he’s lying on your side of the bed telling me, ‘I’m the man of the house.’”
The story is funny, but it also shows how serious boys are about taking on the role of a man. When they’re young, Dad is their hero, and they want to be just like him. As they get older, they start to figure out that Dad has good qualities and some that might not be so good. But they’re still watching and listening every second. Their concept of manhood begins with Dad. Sure, they’ll do plenty of tinkering as they grow up, but more than anything or anyone else, he’s the model they start with and stay with.
That’s definitely how it was for me. My father had a huge influence on me. In all my years of living in the same house, I never saw him miss a day of work. Other than summer vacation time, he never took a day off, not even for being sick. It was his job to be there, and he always showed up. I know that example helped drive me when I got to the NFL. It’s why over seventeen years I missed only one practice, and that was for my dad’s heart surgery. My mind-set was, My job is to be at practice. I need to get this done. It’s what a man does.
That came from my dad.
I also watched my father come home every night. Sure, he was always out late managing the nightclub. But no matter how good or bad a day he had, no matter how he felt about his wife or his kids on a particular evening, we knew he was coming home. There was no running around. We knew that if somebody tried to break into our house in the middle of the night, Daddy would be there defending us. We could count on him.
That’s also what a man does. He’s consistent. He protects and takes care of his family.
The truth is that even though there were a few rough spots, my upbringing was just about perfect for me. I learned so much about what it means to be a man by watching my dad. His relationship with God? That was another matter. I had to filter everything he said and did through the realization that he didn’t have a spiritual foundation. In that area, I’m trying to give my kids a different example.
Of course, so many men and boys today didn’t or don’t have any example to follow. Their father was or is either absent altogether or someone whose life has been about poor choices, lack of responsibility, and no understanding of the meaning of manhood. If you’re that man or boy, or if you’re reading this as a mom whose son doesn’t have a real man in his life, I strongly encourage you to get with someone who had or has a good father and is one today. It might be an older man or someone your own age. Either way, don’t be embarrassed to seek help and advice. Ask him, “What is being a good dad all about?” He may even be able to step in himself and spend time with you and your son.
You can only get so much from a book. You’ve got to connect with those who’ve seen it and lived it. They can teach you what you need to know.
Too many sons, and daughters too, are growing up today without a dad or true father figure. The statistics on fatherless families seem to get worse every year. It’s a national tragedy. Boys need their fathers in order to discover what manhood is all about. We need to do all we can to support and guide these soon-to-be men, especially if we’re dads ourselves.
It’s what a man does.
Tim Brown is one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play in the National Football League. Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy winner in 1987, Tim played 16 seasons for the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders, earning nine Pro Bowl selections and setting team and league records. He has served as a television analyst for Fox Sports, NBC, ESPN, and Sirius XM Satellite radio, and devotes his time and efforts to numerous charitable causes. Tim and his wife, Sherice, have four children and live in DeSoto, Texas.