Toughness fuels Notre Dame WR Equanimeous St. Brown

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

As the cascade of possibilities of who Equanimeous St. Brown may become someday unfolded in front of Brian Kelly with each passing day, the one that stuck with the Notre Dame head football coach was toughness.

Yes, there was elite speed in a 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame. Yes, there was body control and nuanced route-running to go with it. Yes, there were scattered moments in practice in which he muzzled and froze even Notre Dame’s loudest and most-accomplished defensive back, KeiVarae Russell.

But what made Kelly trust that St. Brown wasn’t going to be the dissipating flavor of the week, that the freshman’s climb into the two-deeps for 11th-ranked Notre Dame’s Saturday night season opener with Texas would endure, was a sprained ankle the Anaheim, Calif., product suffered in practice.

And the relentless and quick recovery that followed.

That said a lot about his maturity,” Kelly said. “That said a lot about probably how he was brought up in that home.”

Not that Kelly knew exactly what transpired in the Orange County home of John and Miriam Brown, Equanimeous’ parents and the two people who insisted he and his two younger brothers learn to be fluent in French and Miriam’s native German tongue.

“It was good,” Kelly said of the home visit during the recruiting process in which St. Brown pushed aside notably Stanford, USC, UCLA and Utah, “because I was totally confused most of the night. Which I think that's why we got him. Because I couldn't talk. It was perfect.”

Had Kelly been able to cut through the language barrier a little more adeptly, he would have discovered the toughness was no accident, which John Brown’s background as a body builder and three-time Mr. World and two-time Mr. Universe might suggest.

In fact, everything John Brown, now a women’s fashion designer, does that involves his three football-playing, straight-A-getting sons — Equanimeous, Osiris and Amon-Ra — comes with a purpose.

From the choice of their first names, to their multiple middle names to manipulating their last names, to weight-lifting beginning at age 5, to having big dreams and the genuine means to chase them.

But especially when it came to building toughness.

“We live in Orange Country, which is a suburb and a real nice area and gives my sons a chance for a better life than I had,” Brown said, “but I didn’t want it to make them weak.”

So Brown took them into the past, his past, to Compton, Calif. — a city that exudes toughness, and danger, and reality, but also a stunning allotment of success stories, including Brown’s.

“Every weekend,” he said, “since the kids were 5 years old, I’d take them to Compton to play football with those kids and work out with those kids and toughen them up.

“Where they were growing up wasn’t good for toughness. So I wanted to do something about that. I said, ‘Look you may get into a fight, but this is how it is. You’ve got to learn how to play with these kids.’ ”

Brown did his part back in Orange County by working out with his sons four times a week, but making sure he didn’t morph into the Marv Marinovich stereotype of a control-freak, out-of-balance, stage parent, along the way.

He researched weight-lifting in young children, to make sure it not only was safe in his mind, but beneficial. The first step, when Equanimeous was 5, was to buy a bar at Home Depot and put no weight on it. Just so his son could get the motion and the movements right before the weight eventually became part of the equation.

“They did a lot of push-ups too,” said Brown, who began lifting weights himself at age 14 and competing in body building competitions at 16 when he pushed away football because of the losing team he played for and his preference to control his destiny rather than a team doing so.

Brown researched names and numbers and believed from his days as an art student his freshman year at Cal State Fullerton that there’s power in those things. In fact, he picked out Equanimeous’ name at that time — long before he ever met Miriam.

“It means when everyone else is nervous on the Earth, he’s calm, cool and never wavers,” Brown said. “Always mellow. Always under control.”

Osiris and Amon-Ra come from Egyptian mythology and were gods in that culture. Equanimeous’ brothers, Osiris and Amon-Ra, are a junior and a sophomore, respectively, at Santa Ana Mater Dei High School.

Equanimeous starred at Servite, though his senior season numbers were inexplicably more pedestrian than in earlier years, leading to the transfer of the two younger St. Browns.

Both are considered Division I football prospects. Both already have scholarship offers from Notre Dame, among others.

“I draw the line when it comes to where my kids end up,” Brown said. “I didn’t do it with Equanimeous, and I won’t do it with those two. In fact, deep inside I was hurting when Equanimeous decided he wanted to leave California, but I knew it was right. I knew it when we took the visit there.

“It would be beautiful to see all of them on the field at the same time, but I’m going to support whatever they want to do. I think if Osiris goes to Notre Dame too, Amon-Ra will end up there as well.”

The boys didn’t have those choices growing up. So determined was Miriam that they’d learn French, she had them spend several months in school in Paris, and several years attending a French-American school in California.

“In Germany, it’s quite normal and quite natural that everyone speaks more than one language,” John said of Miriam’s directive. “If you don’t, it’s kind of strange.”

Not that John Brown minds people thinking he is. He convinced Miriam, while she was giving birth to Equanimeous, to change his last name to Von Brown or St. Brown.

“It just sounds more powerful,” he said. “All Miriam told me when I wore her down, was, ‘Just make sure you spell it right.’ So I put it on the birth certificate and got away with it. With the other two, too.

“Everybody thought I was crazy. They called me a hippie. They said, ‘You can’t change around names like that.’ ”

But “can’t” isn’t in Brown’s vocabulary in any language. And so far, it hasn’t appeared in Equanimeous’ either.

“He’s honestly like Corey Robinson, but he has a ton of speed,” Irish cornerback Cole Luke said. “Don’t get me wrong Corey is fast as hell, but Equanimeous has elite speed.”

“A lot of receivers are scared to get physical, and he’s not,” ND safety Max Redfield said. “He’s a good all-around player now, who can finish really well. He has a certain confidence in himself, but not yet the confidence to be a game-changer. Obviously, he’s a freshman, so we don’t need him to be a game-changer at this point.”

But someday?

“He has a chance to become a dynamic receiver and possibly one of the best receivers in the country,” Redfield said. “It’s all about developing that confidence and experience.”


Twitter: @EHansenNDI

Notre Dame freshman receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (right) faces off in a drill with senior receiver Amir Carlisle during a recent Irish football practice. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)