Timmy Brown, Former NFL Star and 'M*A*S*H,' 'Nashville' Actor, Dies at 82

He also appeared for Robert Altman as a country singer in 'Nashville.'

Timmy Brown, a star running back and return man for the Philadelphia Eagles who went on to act in Nashville and in the film and television versions of M*A*S*H, has died. He was 82.

Brown died Saturday of complications from dementia, according to his son, Sean Brown, and the Eagles.

Brown appeared as Cpl. Judson in Robert Altman's M*A*SH (1970), then portrayed Capt. Oliver Harmon "Spearchucker" Jones on six episodes of the first season of the CBS show in 1972-73.

In Altman's Nashville (1975), he played Grand Ole Opry singer Tommy Brown. (In real life, Brown had a recording contract in the '60s.)

He also had supporting turns in the exploitation pics Sweet Sugar (1972), Dynamite Brothers (1974) and the Jim Brown-starring Black Gunn (1972).

Born on May 24, 1937, Brown came out of an orphanage to attend Ball State in his home state of Indiana before he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 27th round (the 313th overall pick) of the 1959 NFL Draft. After one game with Green Bay, he was cut but was signed by the Eagles and helped Philadelphia defeat the Packers in the 1960 NFL title game.

The elusive Brown led the league in all-purpose yardage in 1962 and ’63, and he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in one game in 1966. He was traded to the Baltimore Colts in 1968, and the final contest of his 10-year pro career was the loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. (Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas also was in the M*A*S*H movie.)

Brown had made his onscreen acting debut on a 1967 episode of The Wild Wild West while he was still active in the NFL, and he went on to appear on The Mary Tyler Moore Show — he was looking for a job as a sportscaster in that episode — Mission: ImpossibleThe RookiesT.J. Hooker and Remington Steele.

"In football, I got out there and said, 'Give me the ball.' They could see what I could do. [In show business,] they don't give you a ball," he said in 1973. "But the more I work, the better [in acting] I'm going to get."  

He became a correctional officer in Los Angeles after retiring from acting and had been living in Palm Springs.

"Timmy Brown was an all-time great Eagle and one of the most dynamic multipurpose players of his era. He overcame many obstacles in his life to enjoy success both as an athlete and as an entertainer," Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement.

Said to be one of Sylvester Stallone's favorite Eagles players, Brown was a three-time Pro Bowler and inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 1990. In addition to his son, survivors include two grandchildren and a sister.