"Freak" is a term thrown around too much in the sports world, but sometimes, it's the first phrase that crowds the cranium when a gaudy athletic feat takes place.
What about an entire game's worth of head-turning and gasps?
SI All-American continues its salute to these dominant high school football players in a weekly feature, aptly titled 'Freak of the Week,' going out to a remarkable Friday night performance. The options from SIAA and SBLive were again plentiful over the last several days, perhaps the toughest to separate yet, but the combination of performance and story behind it was too much to pass up when considering Alex Brown.
Not only did the Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic quarterback account for eight total touchdowns, including two as a runner, but he did so a day after the passing of his mother, Michelle Brown.
“This game meant something a little extra,” Brown told Sports Illustrated.
The Caseys needed every bit of the effort from their junior quarterback in the 58-34 shootout win over Morris Catholic Friday night, the first game of the playoffs for Red Bank Catholic in 2021.
For those curious as to the decision of a son to play so soon after a 14-year battle with breast cancer cost Michelle her life, Brown cited his mother.
“She wanted me to do what I love, and that’s play football,” he said.
Brown found out the news of his mother's passing soon after practice on Thursday evening, about 24 hours before Friday night's playoff affair. The team rallied around their quarterback and dedicated their Friday effort to the family's loss.
The Brown family would have a presence at the game, still. In the first game Michelle hadn't been physically available to see her son play in person or on television, there were some 50 members of the family on hand in her place including Alex's father and brother Markus.
The collective voice made a difference in the effort to compete with such a heavy heart.
At their own 48 yard line, Brown avoided an oncoming pass rusher and found sophomore receiver Emanuel Ross alone at the Morris 40. Ross weaved his way past defenders and as he crossed the goal line he hoisted the ball into the air with a wristband that said, “For Momma Brown.”
Nearly every member of the Red Bank Catholic roster had a similar message on their person -- on wrist tape, cleats or marked somewhere else. Brown was of course included.
“We prayed for her. We cried for her. We played for her,” he said.
Under Brown's direction, the offense amassed 531 total yards and scored the season-high 58 points to get one step closer to a championship. Brown did so sporting the number 11 on his eye-black, representing the month and day of his mother's passing on November 11.
A chant, “AB, AB” echoed into the night after Brown hit his first touchdown, a 52-yard strike to Ross. It would kick-start a night, performance and feel few in attendance could possibly forget. Brown would finish with five more scoring passes in addition to utilizing his athleticism for two more touchdowns.
The eight total scores matched his jersey number, one he always wore for his mother and her favorite number.
“Me and my mom always love that number,” Brown said. “She was very spiritual and the number eight meant infinity...
"That our love would last forever.”
After tossing the eighth and final touchdown, he held up four fingers on each hand to punctuate the dedication and performance. He said he'll remember his mother with the gesture, but off-the-field for much more than her courageous fight.
“I still know her as the energetic, fun, loving and beautiful mom,” he paused. “When she still had the energy.”
The team dedicated the win and the rest of the Red Bank Catholic playoff run to 'Momma Brown.'
Brown is committed to Bucknell University in the class of 2022. Additional scholarship options continue to come in for the 6'3", 200-pound senior.
Mike Martin contributed to this feature.
2021 Freak of the Week Archive