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Meet Notre Dame’s emerging star receiver

| Friday, September 9, 2016

Equanimeous (proper noun): the first name of the Notre Dame sophomore receiver who burst onto the scene against Texas on Sunday with his first career touchdown, plus one more. Pronounced eck-wuh-NIM-ee-us. Derived from the word equanimity, “which means level-headed, calm in tough situations,” he says.

Perhaps there’s a verb form, too. Equanimeous: to cartwheel into the end zone on primetime television and send social media into a GIF frenzy.

Or, alternatively, equanimeous (adjective): fluent in three languages – specifically, English, French and German.

Maybe Equanimeous St. Brown — full name Equanimeous Tristan Imhotep J. St. Brown, simply E.Q. — defies definition altogether.

Irish sophomore receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (left) celebrates one of his two touchdowns against Texas Sunday night during Notre Dame's 50-47 loss.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer
Irish sophomore receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (left) celebrates one of his two touchdowns against Texas Sunday night during Notre Dame’s 50-47 loss.

The 6-5, 205-lb. wideout had five catches for 75 yards last weekend, far surpassing the one reception for eight yards he recorded in the seven games he played as a freshman. No highlight reel of the game was complete without his second-quarter catch-and-flip for the team’s second touchdown of the night, either.

“I didn’t realize what I did at the moment,” St. Brown said of the dramatic score that led to a deluge of notifications on his Twitter and Instagram accounts. “I thought I just fell in the end zone.”

While his breakout performance was remarkable, St. Brown’s non-football background is perhaps even more so.

Just look at the people who gave him his extraordinary name. St. Brown’s mother, Miriam, was born in Germany. She’s the one who pushed her three sons to learn new languages and carted them to her native country every summer, St. Brown said.

His father, John Brown, was a two-time Mr. Universe and three-time Mr. World in weight-lifting. Brown added the St. to the surname of Equanimeous and his two younger brothers, Osiris Adrian Amen-Ra J. St. Brown and Amon-Ra Julian Heru J. St. Brown, both of whom are receivers at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, and are attracting a great deal of attention from recruiters.

“St. Brown sounds better,” Equanimeous said. “He didn’t like that Brown was a slave name, so he decided to change it.”

Despite the paternal legacy, St. Brown said neither he nor his brothers ever had any interest in weight lifting, or really in any sport other than football.

So, trained in the weight room from a young age by his father and trained on the field by a number of expert coaches, the eldest St. Brown arrived at Notre Dame ranked as the 63rd-best prospect in the country by ESPN 300 after a standout high school career in Anaheim, Calif.

Most of the action he saw as a freshman was on special teams, highlighted by his blocked punt against USC that was returned for a touchdown. During a late-season practice, he suffered a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the final four games.

In other years, a player with just one catch in a real game would probably be considered inexperienced. But when the 2015 season ended, many of Notre Dame’s top targets departed: Will Fuller, Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle headed to the NFL, and Corey Robinson retired.

Thus, St. Brown, who had just a year to learn from those veterans and take reps in practice, suddenly became one of the most seasoned members of his position group heading into the 2016 opener.

“Being behind Will, I learned a lot just by watching him run routes and watching what he does,” St. Brown said. “Whether you’re playing special teams or offense, it’s still football. It’s still going to be hard, you just have to do your best.”

St. Brown said he’s the same player now as when he was a freshman and is unfazed by the heightened pressure to contribute he faces this season.

“There’s not much difference for me this year from last year,” St. Brown said. “I’m just more focused, playing a bigger role on the team, so I’ve got to step up more.”

St. Brown also moved from the X receiver spot to the W, the receiver closest to the sideline, this offseason. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he would be kept there for the foreseeable future.

Again, St. Brown downplayed any extra work he had to do to adapt to the new position.

“A route is a route,” he said. “It wasn’t much adjustment. You just have to beat the cornerback.”

And beat the cornerback he did on Sunday. The scoring ability displayed by the Irish offense — and St. Brown in particular, with his two touchdowns — did boost the confidence levels of the young receiving corps, he said.

However, he also noted that there wasn’t a deficit of confidence to begin with.

“As receivers, we put in the work, we had good camps, so we were confident in our ability, but now that just solidifies it, and I think we’ll be more confident,” St. Brown said. “We feel pretty good [as an offense], but we still think we could’ve scored more points to win the game. That’s how we’re going to go into Nevada.”

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said St. Brown played well in Sunday’s 50-47 loss to Texas, but he pointed to run blocking as an area that would be targeted for improvement.

“He’s a guy that is going to be in a position to make some plays for us when called upon,” Kelly said Tuesday. “He’s a part of what we do offensively. It’s not going to revolve around him, but I think he gained some great confidence in his first game and it’s what we recruited him for — a long, athletic kid that can make plays for us at the W position.”

Kelly also said St. Brown’s role “requires somebody to really build a rapport with the quarterback.”

Judging by the high confidence, and high expectations, that starting junior quarterback DeShone Kizer has expressed for St. Brown, the sophomore is fitting the bill so far.

“He’s a stud,” Kizer said about St. Brown after the loss to the Longhorns. “We expected it out of him. We treated him as if he was a veteran because quite frankly, all the reps he got last year as well as all the things he did this year, he is a veteran.

“We’re relying on him to make big plays just like he did [Sunday].”

With senior receiver and captain Torii Hunter Jr. questionable for Saturday’s game against Nevada, St. Brown’s playmaking ability is more in demand than ever for the Irish.

“Everybody comes to college expecting, you know, to be the guy and be the starter. I am who I am right now, and I just want to get better,” St. Brown said. “ … Some younger guys are going to have to step up, which they will. Of course we wish Torii the best, but I think we’ll be okay.

“It adds a little more pressure, but it’s nothing that anyone can’t handle. I’ll be ready.”

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About Renee Griffin

Notre Dame senior, formerly of Farley Hall. Originally from Lake Zurich, IL, majoring in American Studies with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. Enjoys talkin' about practice.

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