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Mater Dei's St. Brown brothers reach off-the-charts territory
SANTA ANA – Bruce Rollinson has coached players who have excelled on and off the football field for Mater Dei.
Before linebacker Joe Schmidt became an inspirational team captain at Notre Dame, he earned a leading role in a high school play.
Offensive lineman Zach Aguirre impressed Rollinson as he “just knocked it out” in the classroom en route to Vanderbilt.
Teachers sent the coach glowing emails about David Bright and Curtis Robinson, who helped Stanford beat USC over the weekend.
But Rollinson doesn’t recall any of his players with quite the combination of academics and athletic prowess as wide receivers Osiris and Amon-Ra St. Brown.
“The St. Browns kind of added (their own) category,” said Rollinson, in his 28th season. “(These) are not your normal students. ... It’s beyond interesting.”
The brothers combine the ability to fluently speak English, German and French with an equally flowing capability to break the spirit of a defense.
Amon-Ra leads the top-ranked Monarchs (4-0) with nine touchdown receptions entering Friday’s game against No. 7 Edison (4-0) at Orange Coast College.
The junior made a spectacular, one-handed touchdown grab against Bishop Amat of La Puente with a defender draped so heavily on his body, it drew a penalty flag.
Osiris, a senior who has committed to Stanford, has caught four touchdown passes in three games. He leads the team in yards-per-reception with a gaudy 33.8 average.
The brothers are posting all those numbers while their older brother, Equanimeous, leads Notre Dame in receiving as a sophomore.
“It looks like they should be playing in college right now,” Edison coach Dave White said of Osiris and Amon-Ra. “That’s how good they are.”
A MOTHER’S TOUCH
The duo’s blend of foreign languages and football traces to their parents, John and Miriam, who offer their own intriguing combination.
John is a former five-time world champion body-builder who grew up in Compton and later attended Cal State Fullerton. The former Mr. Universe met Miriam while competing in her native Germany.
While growing up in Germany, Miriam said it was common for children to learn more than one language.
When she became a mother, she made sure her boys – all born in Placentia -- learned multiple languages.
German was the easiest pick. She wanted her sons to talk to her parents, who didn’t speak English.
The boys and their mother traveled to Germany many summers, with the boys briefly attending a German kindergarten.
“I was pretty strict and kind of ruthless,” said Miriam, who has a background in physical therapy. “To keep (a foreign language) up, you have to practice.”
She added French to the language lineup, sending her sons to a French school in Orange during their grade-school years to gain full-immersion. The boys also attended school in Paris for a few months.
“I thought language would be very helpful later on,” she said. “It doesn’t matter which language. … It can only be beneficial.”
Amon-Ra and Osiris are now so fluent in the languages they only speak German to their mother at home.
They also have taken subject SAT exams in German and French.
Their mastery extends beyond the languages.
Osiris earned a 4.12 grade-point average last year at Mater Dei while Amon-Ra collected a 4.20. They both list math as their favorite subject.
“Growing up, (my mother) was always hard on us in the classroom,” Amon-Ra said.
“We have (football) practice until 7 (p.m.). When I get home, I have to eat, take a shower and then do my work as much as I can.
“Usually, I get to bed at 11 or if I have a lot of homework, maybe 12. It’s hard but I get used to it.”
One of the few places the boys don’t speak German or French is on the football field.
Rollinson has heard the pair speak a foreign language only once and was blown away.
“They’re very humble,” he said. “But they’re very confident and that confidence shows on the athletic field, but they have the same confidence in the classroom.”
A FATHER’S TOUGHNESS
Osiris and Amon-Ra credit their father for helping them develop into standout wide receivers.
“My dad focuses more on athletics for us,” Amon-Ra said. “He is the main reason why we are who we are.”
John played football at Dominguez but switched to body-building because of a desire to control his own destiny in an individual sport.
“I trained to annihilate,” he said. “I never trained to be as good as a person. We always trained to annihilate people and I taught my sons that.”
He began training his sons in weight lifting when they were about 5.
Osiris and Amon-Ra are exceptionally strong for their weight and position. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Osiris and 6-foot, 187-pound Amon-Ra each bench press 320 pounds.
“That made us tougher,” Osiris said of the weight-lifting sessions with his father. “Our dad was always hard on us, so we got mentally tough at a young age and focused. … That (strength) helps us a lot in our games (and with) the 50-50 balls.”
John also has stressed extra practice, nutrition and the importance of academic tutoring with his sons.
“(My wife) supported all the training I was doing with them,” he said. “And vice versa when it came to education. I supported (her).”
Amon-Ra and Osiris grew up playing running back in Pop Warner in Yorba Linda. But in high school, they began to concentrate on wide receiver.
While Equanimeous attended Servite, the family bought a football passing machine. He raised his practice quota to 310 balls after hearing a story about Odell Beckham Jr. catching 300 when he was at LSU.
“This is how I think,” said John, a clothing designer. “That’s why you see those guys make those crazy catches.”
The boys’ training regiment has paid off.
Osiris, a first-team All-County pick last season, has committed to Stanford, picking the Cardinal over Notre Dame.
Amon-Ra has been offered by Stanford, Notre Dame and several other top programs, including Alabama.
In only four games, Amon-Ra is already halfway to Rod Perry’s school-record for touchdown receptions in a season (18 in 1996).
“I’m keeping my options open,” Amon-Ra said of recruiting. “My main goal is to play as a freshman.”
Equanimeous caught two touchdowns in Notre Dame’s opener at Texas on Sept. 4.
“It was really mind-blowing,” said John, who attended the game in Austin. “You hope and you pray (for) your son ... but it’s another thing to see it.”
Equanimeous stays in close contact with his brothers, usually texting them before Mater Dei’s games.
“Ball out,” he writes.
Yes, the orders are often followed.
White said he believes Mater Dei has one of its best teams.
A well-protected JT Daniels has been nearly flawless at quarterback while the Monarchs, ranked third in the nation by MaxPreps, have allowed only 21 points.
“I can’t remember a Mater Dei team any better than this one,” White said. “This is about as good of an offense as I’ve ever seen in high school.”
For all their accolades, Mater Dei has plenty left to prove.
The Monarchs haven’t defeated four-time defending Trinity League champion St. John Bosco since 2010. Mater Dei hasn’t claimed a CIF-SS title since 1999.
“Bosco and Centennial are the two biggest teams on our list,” Amon-Ra said.
“If we stay mentally focused,” Osiris said, “I think we’ll have a good chance to go all the way.”
In any language, that sounds good to the St. Browns and the Mater Dei faithful.
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