Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 22 of 63 AUGUST 2017 23 BY LOU SOMOGYI T he parallels between LaVar Ball's and John Brown's fami- lies are uncanny. • The two are separated by about only 20 miles in Southern California. • Ball has raised three sons with relatively unique names to be NBA players: Lonzo, the No. 2 pick in this year's draft following his fresh- man year at UCLA; LiAngelo, who is enrolling at UCLA this year; and LaMelo, who is ranked as a five-star recruit and the No. 16 overall player nationally by Rivals entering his se- nior year of high school. Brown's three sons — with even rarer first names — are destined to be NFL wide receivers, with the eldest, Equanimeous, Notre Dame's top wide- out last season. Then there is Osiris, who signed with Stanford this Febru- ary as a top-150 player, and current high school se- nior Amon-Ra, who is ranked as a five-star recruit and the No. 4 overall player nation- ally by Rivals. • The moth- ers, meanwhile, are credited for rais- ing them as gentlemen and scholars. The St. Brown brothers speak fluent German (mother Miriam was born in Germany) and French. "We're similar in age and athletics — I guess there is a little compari- son," Equanimeous said. "… I never thought about it like that." Both fathers also are deemed as "colorful" figures, although with La- Var Ball it's been more about making outlandish statements to the media to help build the Big Baller Brand. As for John Brown (he later added the "St." to the sons' name), who runs a clothing company, his back- ground is far more distinguished as a competitor. During the 1980s he was named Mr. Universe twice and was a three-time Mr. World with his work in bodybuilding. When Brown asked his sons at an early age what they wanted to do and they all expressed a desire to excel in football, he hired coaches to work with them — and applied his own instruction along the way. When he learned that New York Gi- ants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. catches 300 balls per day, Brown told his sons, "We have to catch 310 balls. We can't do 300, because if we do 300, we're only as good as him. …We want to be better than him." After workouts, he would then have them do maximum weight on the squat machine to instill mental toughness, one of St. Brown's prime assets. "If you fall, you fall," the father told Blue & Gold Illustrated. "In or- der to do this you have to flip the switch and go crazy right now. … They learned how to flip the switch." While recruiting Equanimeous, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly noted early on how "there is not a lot of slacking in the home." As a sophomore in 2016, St. Brown "flipped the switch" from an adjust- ing freshman to an explosive figure, similar to former Fighting Irish game- breaking wideouts such as 2009 Bi- lentnikoff Award winner Golden Tate and 2016 first-round pick Will Fuller, both of whom turned pro after their junior seasons. St. Brown caught one pass as a 2015 freshman before undergoing shoul- der surgery in mid-November — and then last year snared 58 passes for 961 yards (16.6 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns while not playing in a bowl like Tate and Fuller did. Yet, St. Brown's father often ques- tioned what was going on with the strength and conditioning program — a topic he is an expert on — at Notre Dame. He was disturbed how after his son's freshman season, when he did his own testing on him, Equa- nimeous had lost, per his calculations, 60 percent of his lower-body strength. A massive overhaul this offseason within the infrastructure of the foot- ball operation, including bringing in new strength and conditioning co- ordinator Matt Balis and associate Dave Ballou from IMG Academy, has prompted a thumbs-up. "There is a big difference," the soft-spoken St. Brown said. "I love the weight program right now — it reminds me of my dad's, what I do when I lift with my dad. I'm not los- ing weight during spring ball like I did last year. "That has a lot to do with the weight program. Just the intensity and speed of the workout … and by eating well." The green 2016 Irish receiving corps that lost three senior starters from the year prior is much better seasoned in 2017, with St. Brown the ring leader. There is a different quarterback throwing to them in junior classmate Brandon Wimbush, who redshirted last season and has thrown only five passes in college, but St. Brown hardly considers him a novice. "Freshman year when Malik [Zaire] got hurt, Brandon was throwing to me when I was second string for prac- tices," he said. "He's thrown to me in camps, too, and in high school. He's n o t a n e w q u a r t e r b a c k for me. " H e ' s n o t as big as De- Shone [Kizer], but he's much faster than him. He's still young and has a lot to learn, but he's definitely growing at a fast pace." One of six new on-field coaches on the Notre Dame staff, receivers coach Del Alexander has taken a guarded approach with all his players, includ- ing St. Brown. "Consistency," replied Alexander when asked what St. Brown can do for an encore. "His deal is just show- ing growth. You can have a breakout season, but once you've got a new set of coaches then there are more things you have to learn and adjust to." The Irish averaged 30.9 points per game last year, but with four start- ers returning along the line, tight end Alizé Mack back in the lineup after sitting out 2016 for academic reasons, a bevy of backs in the sta- ble led by junior Josh Adams, and a faster tempo incorporated by new coordinator Chip Long, St. Brown envisions upgrades beyond just what has transpired in the weight room. "You could see us scoring a lot more points, I think," he said. "At the pace we're going, we're going to light the scoreboard up." ✦ FAMILY AFFAIR Equanimeous St. Brown's upbringing has helped him make strides on the gridiron St. Brown reeled in 58 receptions for 961 yards (16.6 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns dur- ing his breakout sophomore campaign. PHOTO BY COREY BODDEN

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - August 2017