For most children growing up, a sleepover with friends might entail an all-nighter of video games while snacking on junk food, followed by a recovery lay-in and a breakfast upgrade on cereal prepared by host parents eager to cement five-star reviews from guests upon returning to their own home.
Ask friends of Amon-Ra St Brown and his two brothers and they would recall a slightly different experience, although that’s not to say it ever diminished the traditional fun.
“The next morning our dad would wake us up early, even get our friend to wake up early, and he’d lift weights with them,” St Brown told Sky Sports.
“The friend would be like ‘what the heck? I didn’t come over to lift weights’. A lot of our friends knew that when they came over our dad was probably going to do something like that the next day.”
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Let’s meet the St Browns. Father John Brown, a former bodybuilder, is a three-time Mr World and two-time Mr Universe; mother Miriam was born in Leverkusen, Germany and met her husband at a fitness trade show in Cologne in 1987; eldest brother Equanimeous Tristan Imhotep J St Brown plays as a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers; middle brother Osiris Adrian Amon-Ra J. St Brown is a senior wide receiver for the Stanford Cardinals; younger brother Amon-Ra Julian Heru J St Brown is a junior wide receiver out of USC preparing to follow in his oldest sibling’s footsteps at the 2021 NFL Draft.
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John’s 90s fascination with Egyptian nomenclature led to him naming Amon-Ra after Amun, the ancient Egyptian deity, and Osiris after the god of the afterlife. ‘Equanimeous’, meaning composed, is derived from the name of a character in a book written by a friend.
The man of the Brown household was chief navigator to his sons’ sporting destiny from day one. The crack-of-dawn weight-lifting sessions became habitual for the St Brown brothers before the age of 10, they all played football, basketball and soccer and their adonis father even addressed their dietary requirements by citing them as the inspiration for his own self-branded ‘Cane Protein’, which a well-versed Amon-Ra plugged quite brilliantly while announcing his commitment to USC on national television in 2018.
Beneath the surface, though, it’s simple. A man who came from little devoted to giving his children everything.
“Our dad was very tough on us on the athletic side, supportive too, was at every game of ours, didn’t miss any games, coached us up when he needed to, was tough on us,” added St Brown.
“He was raised in Compton which was a tougher neighbourhood than most neighbourhoods and so he was raised on not a lot, he didn’t have the type of resources a lot of people have growing up so he had to do a lot on his own and that’s what he never wanted for us, he always wanted to be there for us as a dad because growing up he didn’t have a dad.
“And then off the field when it was father-son time he was the best dad, he took us everywhere. Whatever we wanted to do, the beach, mini-golf, all things that kids want to do he did with us so that was awesome.”
Above all was work ethic, whether Amon-Ra, the NFL-bound wide receiver-slash-Business Administration major, wanted to be a ‘football player, a tennis player, or a professional coder’.
Comparisons for their multi-faceted family might range from Disney’s ‘The Incredibles’ to LaVar Ball’s NBA factory; between John and his wife Miriam they fortified a model balance between sporting excellence and academic integrity.
If their dad was the brawny athletic mentor, their mother was a beacon for the role of education. And it showed on both fronts, Amon-Ra and his sport-enthused siblings consistently pitching up in the classroom end zone with 4.0 grade point averages, while getting bigger, stronger and faster than those around them on a red meat-heavy menu.
“It was very cool to grow up in that household because we have a mother that is very strict, very hard on you on the academic side,” he continued. “Football doesn’t last forever and once this thing is done and you can’t play no more you want something to fall back on, you want to be able to have a life after football.
“Our mother was awesome, we travelled the world together, went to Spain, France, London, the Caribbean, Italy, you name it we’ve been all around the world. It’s awesome to have this type of family.”
A post shared by Miriam Steyer Brown (@miriambrown16)
All three speak fluent German thanks to their mother, whose native language Amon-Ra paid tribute to her in on the same stage as his ‘Cane Protein’ advertisement while revealing his USC acceptance.
Miriam also sought to expand their communication skills further in elementary school by enrolling them in French academy Lycee International de Los Angeles, before later shipping them off to Paris for a semester as a means of determining what level they were at.
A pretty good level, as it goes, with the trio going on to sit their SATs in English, German and French, the latter of which Amon-Ra admits he ‘wants to touch up on quite a bit’.
“My mum only spoke German to us growing up so it was basically my first language,” he said. “I can’t thank her enough for teaching us a language because I think that’s the best gift you can give a kid, once you get older language is very powerful, not a lot of people speak different languages so to be able to go around different parts of the world and communicate with others is awesome.
“Growing up she would always take us to Germany in the summer for about two months and we’d spend time there with our grandparents, we’d play soccer out there and it was just a lot fun.”
A post shared by Miriam Steyer Brown (@miriambrown16)
Most college prospects have barely stepped foot outside of their home town, let alone the United States. Amon-Ra isn’t most college prospects.
His foreign exploits, besides exposing him to Europe’s obsession with a football that is kicked rather than thrown, included him representing the German national team alongside Osiris during his sophomore year at high school, delivering a welcome taste of the overseas prospects offered up by the NFL’s International Series.
“I think it was awesome playing football somewhere outside the United States where it’s just a completely different country and everything is different,” he continued. “Having a chance to play in London would be awesome. I visited London one time, the people are awesome, the humour is great, just being able to play out there would be dope.”
“What’s the name of the big bell again?,” he asks, while recalling the stops on his trip to the capital. That would be Big Ben.
“Big Ben! Me, Osiris and my mum visited Big Ben and all kinds of places. My mum said the big thing out there is fish and chips so we went to a spot and got some fish and chips with some malt vinegar, it was pretty good.”
Globe-trotting, German-speaking, weight-lifting, pass-catching, god-inspired brother of three, all of whom happen to play the same position, all of whom Amon-Ra admits to being ‘sore losers’.
Pumping iron, shooting hoops or shifting pieces on a board game. Regardless of the scenario, all that mattered was winning. Oh to be a fly on the wall for Christmas Day charades.
“It was very competitive growing up,” he joked. “Whether it was football, one-on-one basketball, monopoly, video games all three of us were very competitive, and I was the youngest so I always had to push a little extra harder to try and beat them because they were older and naturally stronger and naturally a little bit smarter, maybe faster, bigger so whatever it was I had to push a little extra harder.
“Even when we are in the weight room my oldest brother (Equanimeous) is obviously pushing more weight than us but he’s pushing me and my other brother to push more weight to try and catch up. It made me stronger, it made me competitive and I’m blessed to be the youngest because I think being the youngest brother really drives you to be better.”
A post shared by Amon-Ra St.Brown (@amonra_stbrown)
The 21-year-old, whose chiselled torso and bulging arms are well on the way towards rivalling that of his dad, recognises 6ft 5in Equanimeous’ vertical threat and the outside speed of Osiris as he compares the trio’s receiver attributes.
“Then me, I feel like I can do it all,” he adds.
Without the flexing and the tensing, he projects the same unflinching alpha mentality as that of his prime Herculean father while posing during his bodybuilding days.
In a year enamoured by Heisman Trophy-winning receiver DeVonta Smith, fellow Alabama flyer Jaylen Waddle and LSU stud Ja’Marr Chase, he has no qualms as to where he stands.
“I think I’m the best receiver in this Draft class, you ask me I’m going to tell you every time, 10 times out of 10.”
St. Brown on how he views the 2021 wide receiver class
While disappointed not to have ‘built’ on his resume as he might have liked, St Brown admits he was grateful to merely take to the field at all as his 2020 campaign was limited to just six games due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A truncated season wasn’t without its highlights though as he snagged four touchdowns in the first quarter alone against Washington State to tie a school record for most in a game, finishing the year with 41 catches for 478 yards and a career-high seven scores (including the Pac-12 Championship Game loss to Oregon).
“It was awesome,” he said. “I think the last time I’d had four touchdowns in a game was my junior year at high school in my first game of the season.
Born in Anaheim Hills around an hour’s drive from USC, the former five-star recruit leaves his home not-so-far-from home with 178 career catches for 2,270 yards and 16 touchdowns across effectively two-and-a-half seasons, the most productive of which equating to 77 catches for 1,042 yards and six touchdowns in 2019.
Smooth route-running and exceptional hands in contested catch situations had been evidenced both from the slot and on the outside by the end of last year, along with a rare calibre of receiver grit and competitiveness one can imagine stems from the environment in which he grew up.
“I think the contested catch is all about mindset, it’s me versus you when the ball is in the air and I hate to lose so I think to me it’s just making that play over the guy that’s in front of me,” he said.
“I think for me I like playing inside and outside. Moving a player around is something every player loves, you’re maybe going to go against a linebacker one play, on another play you’ll line up against a corner so I think as a receiver I love being moved around.
“Really both I’m great at. I think I have a great feel for those open spots and the holes in the zones in the middle, and then outside getting that one-on-one I feel like nobody can guard me when I’m out there.”
In recent years brother Equanimeous, a sixth-round pick in 2018, has perhaps been lonely opposition to an overwhelming and re-emerging consensus around the league that ‘Aaron Rodgers needs another weapon’ in Green Bay.
But what if that ‘weapon’ were to be another St Brown?
“That would be awesome to be able to play alongside my brother for the first time,” said Amon-Ra. “I’ve never been able to do that my whole life. In high school I was too young to play with him.
“Now that we’re both in our 20s to be able to play alongside him would be a dream come true, being able to go to practice with him every day, being able to play on the same team I think would be ground-breaking for us as a family.”
St. Brown on the prospect of playing with his brother
Half the battle for receivers in the modern NFL is mastering the quick-release patterns and techniques capable of beating defensive backs before the ball is out of the quarterback’s hands.
“Release is like dancing,” he says. “Once you learn a dance you have it down, so once you learn a release you can use it whenever you want. Just having those releases in your back pocket and being able to pull them out whenever you can is huge.”
The youngest St Brown studies the intricacies of Keenan Allen, Stefon Diggs, Odell Beckham Jr, Julio Jones, and a certain Packers artist, Davante Adams. The man whose feet Allen Lazard described as ‘registered weapons’, the man Amon-Ra has heard all about.
“My brother tells me a lot about Davante and what he does,” he added. “He just said he’s been doing it so long and he’s so quick and so mindful of what he’s doing out there and his head fakes are amazing.
“My brother said he was out there guarding him through walkthroughs one time and he said even through walkthroughs it was tough to guard him so I can’t even imagine what it’s like to guard him in a real game. I think Davante is awesome.”
With the anecdotes also come words of wisdom from Equanimeous, who advised his brother that while the NFL is a ‘business’ it’s also ‘the same sport’ – ‘football is football’.
A path of studying and lifting and running and bonjouring is nearing what always felt like a natural destination in the NFL. When the call comes in during Draft week it will mark yet another landmark day for the Brown family, but also an early-morning alarm signalling his latest workout.
“It’s going to be awesome for us,” he said. “It will be a dream come true for me, my family is going to be proud of me.
“The work doesn’t stop now. I’m going to celebrate for a little bit but after that it’s back to work.”
Amon-Ra St Brown. In die NFL kommen. Venir à la NFL. Coming to the NFL.
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