Practice is over at Howard Jones Field for the USC football team. One by one, Trojans are filing off the grass, each carrying their beat up pads and sweat-drenched jerseys in one hand. A glance at almost any player will quickly reveal the signs that practice ended 35 minutes late — faces covered in sweat, pads seeming to weigh more than they really do, slow trots toward the gate that deposits them onto McClintock Avenue, closing the book on the third-to-last practice before the season opener against Fresno State.
Something doesn’t quite fit. It’s the gears of a machine firing; split seconds later, the sound of pigskin colliding and sticking like glue to bare hands. It doesn’t make sense, everyone has checked out. But way in the back, past the far sideline of the practice field, it’s there, and it’s constant, and that football isn’t getting grass stains any time soon.
Did someone say practice is over? Don’t tell Amon-Ra St. Brown. He might hear you, but he sure won’t care.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound sophomore wide receiver is still at work, pumping his arms through the air to mimic a route, just yards away from the robot quarterback firing passes at what seems like dangerous speeds. Suddenly, he shoots his arms up to trap the football between his hands like a vacuum. Ten, 20, 30 reps, zero drops. He reels in the last one, and he’s finally done. Right?
Wrong. St. Brown seeks the assistance of a real quarterback, and, with his back turned to the passer, only catches sight of the football at the last second before two fully outstretched arms reel it in. Ten, 15 of those. Twenty minutes have passed since the second-to-last Trojan took part in any real drills, and St. Brown is on his back as if knocked to the ground by three cornerbacks, swallowing up any ball in his vicinity, whether or not multiple hands are required.
When he’s done, St. Brown heads for the exit, his lack of sweat giving off the impression that he hasn’t worked out in three days. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In reality, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. St. Brown’s been this way his whole life. The youngest of three children, he’s continuing a family tradition of wide receiving excellence.
“Being the youngest, I always had to push a little extra harder to beat them in whatever it was,” St. Brown said of his two older brothers. “Whether it was pickup basketball, playing football outside, catch around, they were always a step faster than me because they were older.”
The eldest of the three St. Brown children, Equanimeous, is a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers. The middle child, Osiris, is a senior wideout at Stanford.
Most children placed in Amon-Ra’s position would feel the weight of inevitably enormous expectations. Not this one, though — that sort of thing just doesn’t affect St. Brown.
“I never feel pressure for anything,” he said. “The only pressure you have is the pressure you put on yourself.”
It’s not pressure but competition that makes St. Brown go. Sophomore quarterback JT Daniels has known and played with St. Brown since they were both in seventh grade, and while Trojan fans are just getting familiar with the high achieving wideout, it’s nothing new for USC’s signal-caller.
“He’s competitive in everything he does,” Daniels said, recalling a time when St. Brown nearly broke a controller after his long-time quarterback beat him in FIFA. “No matter if it’s fashion, Madden, [NBA] 2K — everything.”
Competition is inherent with St. Brown; he lives off it, feeds off it, moves because of it. Competing against his brothers played a big role in developing that mindset, but one doesn’t have to look outside his family to find another driving source of his competitive nature.
Amon-Ra, Osiris and Equanimeous are the sons of one of the most successful bodybuilders of the 1980s: three-time Mr. World and two-time Mr. Universe John Brown.
Naturally, Brown had each of his three sons hitting the gym around the time most kids were getting acclimated to second grade.
“I think I was seven years old when I started lifting,” St. Brown said. “Lifting was innate in us because he pushed that in us really early on. So I think we really got the edge on other kids growing up, being stronger than them, because obviously our dad was a weightlifter. He pushed us in the weight room, so just being stronger than the kid in front of us really helped us growing up.”
Is that around the time St. Brown began to dominate on the gridiron? After all, bench pressing 135 pounds at age 8 would figure to separate him from kids who likely first saw the inside of a gym around 12.
His quarterback isn’t so sure. He thinks St. Brown’s been on a different level for quite a bit longer.
“Probably since birth,” Daniels said. “He’s always been Amon.”
John Brown is a tough father who wants nothing but the best for his three similarly-aged kids who all play the same sport at a high level. There are comparisons to be drawn between the St. Browns and the infamous Ball family, but the youngest receiver doesn’t see it that way.
“When we’re all on the football field or in the weight room, when he’s training us, he’s our coach, he’s really tough,” St. Brown said. “But then outside of that he’s a really loving father, and he’s going to be just a normal father, have fun with us, joke around … [people] kind of see us in that same way, but I think we’re two kind of different families.”
St. Brown’s father has been training his children in the weight room and guiding their diet for years, and Daniels has seen the effects of Brown’s influence first hand.
“He wasn’t even tired after the first [fall] practice,” Daniels said. “He ran four and a half miles. That’s like, sprinting. Two and a half hours, he ran four and a half miles, and it was like nothing for him.”
St. Brown’s physical fitness has helped him become one of the Pac-12’s best receivers after just one year at the collegiate level. A five-star product out of Anaheim, St. Brown led the Trojans with 60 receptions in 2018, piling up 750 yards and three touchdowns on the season.
He’s doing everything he can to bring USC back to the top of the college football stratosphere. St. Brown came to USC with the intention of winning games and picking up a few Heismans along the way, so don’t expect him to take any prisoners this year. After all, this is Amon-Ra St. Brown — whose father added “St.” to his kids’ last names and named his youngest after one of the most important Egyptian gods. He is destined for greatness.
The trilingual sophomore, just as fluent in German and French as he is in dominating on Saturdays, is carving his own path and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Equanimeous and Osiris motivate him to be better, but Amon-Ra’s plans are far greater than surpassing those two.
If you ever run into St. Brown around campus, ask him who holds the throne between him and his brothers. He’ll give you the same answer that any youngest child would give but few would actually believe:
“You’re looking at him right now.”
You might be skeptical at first, but the look in his eyes as he delivers those six words should tell you all you need to know.
St. Brown doesn’t just believe it. He knows it. And he’s ready to prove it.