"It's a good feeling," Brown said recently. "It's like coming home."
In 1984, Brown won an Olympic gold medal as a member of the United States' 4 x 100-meter relay team. The U.S. team, which included Calvin Smith, Sam Graddy and Carl Lewis, was clocked in 37.83 seconds, a world record that still stands.
Today, the 27-year-old Brown is training for another shot at Olympic gold in Seoul, South Korea. He ran an impressive 4 x 100 relay at the Mount San Antonio College meet last month in Walnut, Calif., and he is entered in the 100-meter dash at the UCLA-Pepsi Invitational June 5.
Brown's competition at the Pepsi meet will include former Olympic teammates Smith and Lewis. Now that's what you call fast company.
"The competition is good for me," Brown said. "To make the Olympic team (at the U.S. trials in Indianapolis) in July, I'll have to run around 10 seconds consistently. I need these (tough) meets to know where I stand. Right now, I feel good about my chances.
"People say I'm coming back to make the Olympic team. That's only half the story. I'm coming back to be No. 1, the fastest man in the world. That's my goal."
"Do you think you can make it?" someone asked.
"I wouldn't have made this commitment if I didn't," Brown replied.
Maybe, maybe not.
There is another side to this story - Brown's failure to arrive at contract terms with the Rams for the 1988 season. According to Brown's agent, Jerome Stanley, the club's last offer represented "a substantial cut" from the $200,000 Brown earned in 1987.
"It was an insult," Stanley said. "It had a lot to do with his getting back in track and field."
Brown is well aware of the Rams' history in these matters. Last year, the club stonewalled the salary demands of Eric Dickerson and finally traded the disgruntled running back to Indianapolis in October, just in time to put the Colts in the AFC playoffs.
Brown knew that if Eric Dickerson couldn't beat the Rams playing fiscal hardball, then a wide receiver with suspect hands had no chance at all. Rather than waste this summer in a holdout, Brown decided to quit football last month and concentrate on making another Olympic team.
This isn't to say Brown, now a free agent, will never go back to the NFL. If he fails to qualify at the U.S. track and field trials in July, he still has time to rejoin the Rams or hook on with another team. And if Brown does make the Olympics, he still could be back by mid-October.
All Brown's "retirement" means, basically, is he wants to keep his options open for another few months. Chances are, if the Rams had thrown a few more bucks his way, Brown wouldn't even be thinking about the '88 Olympics. But they didn't, and now Brown figures he has nothing to lose by resuming his career as a sprinter.
Brown also has suggested he might try professional baseball, and said he discussed the matter with Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda. But no one is taking that option too seriously, since Brown has not played organized baseball since his days at Baldwin Park (Calif.) High School.
His return to track, however, has people taking notice. "I think we were all surprised by the news," Carl Lewis said, "but if Ron is really serious about coming back, he has the talent to do it."
"This wasn't a snap decision," said Brown, a 5-11, 180-pound product of Arizona State. "I trained and checked my times. I talked to people I respect like (hurdler) Edwin (Moses). I thought about it a lot. I prayed. Finally, I decided this was something I really wanted.
"I was surprised how much I hurt after the first few workouts. I thought, 'You mean, I missed this?' But at the same time it was a great feeling
because I was hungry again. I'm really excited. Critics who say this is just a (negotiating) ploy or a publicity stunt . . . hey, they don't know me."
It is hard to say how much Ron Brown, the sprinter, lost in four years of pro football. He twice won the NFL's "fastest man" competition. In 1986, Brown ran the 60-yard dash in 6.09 seconds to edge Green Bay's Phillip Epps in the final. That was just a shade slower than Brown's best time (6.06 seconds) as a collegian.
Brown was plagued by upper-body injuries (shoulder separation, bone chips in wrist) while playing for the Rams, but he didn't blow out a knee or tear a hamstring or do anything that would finish him as a track man.
Of course, if Brown has lost so much as a step to age or wear, that would finish him, too.
The Pepsi meet will be the first real test to see where the ex-Ram stands in relation to the top U.S. sprinters. Brown was impressive in his comeback at Mount SAC, running the 4 x 100 with Smith, Harvey Glance and Dwayne Evans in
39.09 seconds. That's the fastest time in the world this year.
It is particularly impressive when you consider the team rushed to the starting line ("We thought we were in the next heat," Brown explained) and Brown had to run his 100 meters in a pair of ill-fitting, borrowed shoes.
"I feel better now than I've ever felt," Brown said. "I'm running faster (in training) than ever. People talk about my age and what football took out of me, but that's all in the mind. You don't peak until you're 30.
"The reason most (sprinters) decline sooner than that is they lose their motivation and desire. I don't have that problem. I took a four-year break
from track, now I'm back and raring to go.
"What really started me thinking was the world track championships last year. I watched Ben Johnson (of Canada) break the world record in the 100
meters (9.83). I was excited for him and I thought, 'I wonder how it would feel to put a race like that together?' It got my adrenaline pumping."
There was a heavy touch of irony in Brown's comeback at Mount SAC. It took place on April 24, Day 1 of this year's NFL Draft. Almost at the exact moment Brown took the baton from Glance, the Rams were selecting another Arizona State wide receiver, Aaron Cox, with their second pick in the first round.
What timing, what symbolism . . .
"I'm sure the Rams are looking at Aaron to take my place," Brown said. ''That's fine. They have to do what they have to do. I'm doing what I have to do here.
"I enjoyed football a lot. I learned a lot. I might play again when this is all over . . . I won't go back to the Rams because I know how they are. They make an offer and stick to it and I won't play for what they're offering. But I know I can play somewhere. I've proven that."
Brown's statistics as an NFL receiver are far from dazzling. He never caught more than 26 passes in a season and he had the usual track man's problems hanging onto the ball at times.
But he was an explosive kickoff returner who brought three back for touchdowns in one season, 1985. Brown tied an NFL record set by the Eagles' Timmy Brown with two kickoff return touchdowns in the same game, a 34-17 win over Green Bay. He made the NFC Pro Bowl squad that season.
Still, Brown enjoyed his greatest moments as a track athlete, and he feels good about being back.
"I would have been thinking about the Olympics this September anyway," Brown said. "I figure I might as well be there."