At his Nov. 6 alumni reception, NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown was more than a little surprised to see his Woodrow Hall of Fame plaque.
Brown is no stranger to awards: in addition to being in the NFL Hall of Fame, he won the Heisman Trophy, for starters. But this Woodrow award was unlike any other, as its backstory involved a robbery, intense eBay auction, and alumni coming together to do the right thing.
It was an early morning in June when Woodrow alum Teresa Gibson got an unusual email alert: the Hall of Fame plaque presented by her alma mater to Tim Brown in 1989 was up for auction on eBay.
“I was totally surprised,” Gibson said. “The Woodrow Hall of Fame is a very exclusive honor, and I knew that no Hall of Fame alumni would ever auction off this special award.”
Not sure what to do, Gibson shared the auction link with the Woodrow alumni group on Facebook. No one could understand how the plaque given to Brown made its way to eBay. Regardless, they all agreed there was only one thing to do: they had to rescue it. The plaque was a piece of Woodrow and it needed to be back in Wildcat country.
“The seller was located in Cedarhurst, New York, and a Woodrow item most definitely did not belong up there,” Gibson said.
Gibson placed the first bid on the plaque, but someone else quickly came along and outbid her. To make sure it wasn’t another Woodrow alum bidding against her, she reached out to the alumni group to tell them about what was happening with the auction.
By this time, Jason Kulas, Class of 1989, had placed the highest bid on this piece of Woodrow history. After some deliberations, they decided to all stand down and have Kulas see the bid process through. After several intense days of watching the bids, Kulas won the auction, and the plaque was sent back to Wildcat country.
“This was a real joint effort,” said Kulas. “We really should tip our hats to Teresa for finding out about this and letting us know, and it’s typical of Woodrow, which is a special place with a real sense of community around the school and alumni. People always say Woodrow people stick together and take care of each other, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Kulas explained that the plaque was particularly meaningful to him because he was a senior when Woodrow presented it to Brown.
“This guy is a real legend. When he was at Notre Dame, he would come back to the school and walk around the halls, dunk basketballs in the gym for us and all of that,” Kulas said. “He’s always been a legend to us, and so it was personal for me to be able to be a part of making sure the right thing got done for a Woodrow grad.”
After the plaque was sent back to Texas, the alumni learned that it ended up on eBay after it was stolen from the home of Josephine Brown, Tim’s mom. The family discovered it was missing during a visit by the NFL Network when they sent a crew to photograph Brown’s memorabilia earlier in the summer. They had no idea the plaque was on eBay until a family friend and Woodrow alum contacted them to find out if this was indeed Brown’s plaque.
At the alumni reception on Nov. 6, Kulas surprised Brown by returning his plaque. Brown intently listened as Kulas told the involved backstory about how the plaque made its way back to Dallas, and Brown accepted it with great gratitude.
The alumni reception and surprise plaque presentation was part of Tim Brown Day that was proclaimed for the City of Dallas.