Notre Dame WR target Amon-Ra St. Brown's chase to be the best
BEAVERTON, Ore. – Jordan Palmer tried to explain the route he wanted his wide receivers to run, but some of the top high school recruits in the country weren’t quite grasping the necessary nuance.
Then Amon-Ra St. Brown stepped up and ran the route to perfection. Palmer, one of the camp counselors at The Opening Finals at Nike World Headquarters, didn’t need to describe the details in an abstract way any longer. He could just point to St. Brown.
The first practice of the national invite-only camp that will include 166 of the top recruits in the 2018 and 2019 classes involved only basic route-running for wide receivers and tight ends, but St. Brown still found a way to set himself apart from the competition.
Finding a way to stand out shouldn’t be new for St. Brown. He’s the youngest of three football stars. His oldest brother, Equanimeous, led Notre Dame in receptions (58), receiving yards (961) and receiving touchdowns (9) last season as a sophomore. Middle brother, Osiris, a four-star recruit in his own right, left to enroll at Stanford last weekend.
Yet Amon-Ra may be the most talented of all the St. Browns. He’s already received five-star status from Rivals as the top wide receiver and No. 4 overall in the 2018 class. 247Sports slates him slightly lower as a four-star recruit, the No. 4 wide receiver and No. 27 overall. Both are well ahead of where Equanimeous and Osiris finished in their respective class rankings.
So what makes Amon-Ra, a 6-foot, 191-pound recruit, different from his brothers?
“I play with more of an edge,” Amon-Ra said. “More fiery. More run after the catch. More aggressive."
Growing up in the shadows of Equanimeous and Osiris, Amon-Ra hasn’t had to look far for motivation. Sometimes it pays to be the youngest brother.
“Maybe a little,” Amon-Ra said when asked if his rung in the sibling ladder has impacted him. “Now since they're gone, Osiris has finally left the house. Equanimeous has been gone. It's just my type of personality, how I am."
All three sons have been molded by their father, John Brown. It turns out the former Mr. Universe of 1981 and 1982 knows how to build bodies for the football field too.
“My dad's a big influence in my life,” Amon-Ra said. “He's raised me. He's the one that trains me, takes me to the gym. He supports me in everything I do. My dad's probably the reason why I'm here today. He's the one who built me. I give all the credit to my dad."
So will Amon-Ra follow one of his brothers to Notre Dame or Stanford? Possibly. But at this point in his recruitment, he’s not ruling anything out.
“I don't have any top schools right now,” Amon-Ra said. “I'm still looking around. I would love to take more visits, but money's tight right now. I can't really travel how I want. I'm still looking at every school right now."
But look closer and some front-runners appear to be emerging. Amon-Ra said he visited USC and Stanford earlier this week. The only other school likely to receive an unofficial visit this summer would be UCLA. When it comes to official visits, Notre Dame and Stanford are likely to receive ones, he said. Ohio State and Michigan are also pushing hard to get him on campus.
Amon-Ra remains highly interested in Notre Dame despite last season’s 4-8 nightmare.
"Last year, we all know, wasn't the best season. But they got a new coaching staff, and they're really trying to turn things around right now,” Amon-Ra said. “My brother says they're doing a great job and he loves the new coaches. The education they have at Notre Dame is huge. That's big for me. And they're known for getting out receivers: Michael Floyd and Golden Tate. That's big for me also."
Special teams coordinator Brian Polian and wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander have led Amon-Ra’s recruitment for Notre Dame with head coach Brian Kelly chiming in from time to time.
When Amon-Ra makes his official visit to Notre Dame, he hopes to learn more about how he’d be used in offensive coordinator Chip Long’s scheme. He’ll be keeping a close eye on how Equanimeous is used this season. He’s not afraid to admit that his older brother’s career at Notre Dame could impact how he views the Irish.
"My aspirations as a football player are to go the NFL and be a first-round draft pick. That's my goal,” Amon-Ra said. “If Equanimeous is fortunate enough to go to the NFL, that would be huge in my decision because that's something I want to do also. Seeing him do it would give me hope."
A monster junior season at Notre Dame could leave Equanimeous with a decision to make on turning pro early. That process would play out before National Signing Day for Amon-Ra. It would certainly add intrigue to an already competitive recruitment.
At Stanford, the recruiting pitch only differs in the offensive playbook. The Cardinal’s run-first offense relies on wide receivers differently than Notre Dame’s spread attack.
“Stanford runs more of a ground-and-pound offense. For receivers, you get more of a one-on-one opportunity with the DB,” Amon-Ra said. “That's a good side to the Stanford offense."
If Amon-Ra’s ability is as transcendent as some analysts project, he’ll continue to hear plenty of creative recruiting pitches of how he can be used in any number of offenses. But only two schools have his brothers in their program. The advantage is more real than perceived, but he's not going to let their decision impact his chase for his own greatness.
"Im fine with following either one of them," Amon-Ra said. "It would be great to play with either one of them on the same team and ball out together. That would be so fun. But then again, I'm here to do my own thing. Whatever's best for me is what I'm going to do whether that's going to Stanford, Notre Dame or another school."
Notre Dame will be well-represented at The Opening Finals as the event runs through Monday. Five Irish commits: defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola, safety Derrik Allen, defensive tackle Ja’mion Franklin, linebacker Ovie Oghoufo and tight end George Takacs.
Plenty of Notre Dame targets will be also be in attendance. More than 75 recruits at the camp have already reported Notre Dame scholarship offers. Close to 30 of those recruits have shown varying levels of interest in the Irish.
The annual Nike camp gives high school recruits the chance to work with college football and NFL mentors. At Thursday’s practice, Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice worked with recruits on their routes. Recently drafted quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Cooper Kupp were also among those helping out Thursday.