Red Bank Catholic quarterback Alex Brown honors late mother with record-setting eight touchdowns in playoff win
On Friday, Nov. 12, Alex Brown suited up for the most difficult football game of his life. Given the circumstance, it speaks immeasurable volumes about his fortitude that it was also the greatest game of his career.
Taking the field just a day after his mother Michelle passed away after a 15-year battle with breast cancer, the senior quarterback for Red Bank Catholic delivered an epic, record-setting performance fit for a movie script. In the Caseys’ 58-34 win over Morris Catholic in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA Non-Public B playoffs, Brown was magical with 238 yards passing and six touchdowns plus 76 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He set a school single-game record in the process and captured the hearts of thousands at the Jersey Shore and beyond.
Usually, there is a poll for the Beacon 70/Shore Sports Network Football Player of the Week, but no vote was needed this week. Brown is the obvious and unanimous choice as our Week 11 Player of the Week.
“For 15 years my mom was a fighter and for 15 years she made me stronger,” Brown said before the Caseys’ practice Wednesday at Count Basie Field. “Having her battle in front of me and in front of my family, it made me who I am. It made me do what I do on the field, not only Friday night but throughout my whole career. Especially that night, given the circumstances and having my family around me, it lit the spark in me. She was watching over me. You could tell she was with us on that field.”
Brown got the Caseys going with a 52-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Emanuel Ross and then ripped off a 39-yard touchdown run. RBC jumped out to a 19-0 lead at halftime and opened it to a 31-0 advantage in the third quarter. He totaled three touchdowns to Ross, a 40-yard touchdown to senior running back Rajahn Cooper, a 40-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jaidin Haynes, and a touchdown pass to junior wideout Robert Stolfa.
It was a performance that could be described as unconscious, but Brown couldn’t have been more present.
“When I threw that first touchdown pass, I could feel her presence with me,” Brown said. “I just went with it. The first thing I did was point up to the sky and say, ‘thank you, mom’. I ran over to the crowd and I literally had 50 of just my family and friends right there screaming out my name. I just kept thanking her and pointing to the sky.”
“You think about what happened the day before and the news he got and where he was emotionally,” said Red Bank Catholic head coach Mike Lange. “But when I saw him on Thursday he was like, ‘Ok, I’ll see you at practice in 20 minutes', and that was remarkable in itself. And then you see how it unfolded on Friday night. It was a unique and special moment.”
After the game, Brown sent out a tribute to his mother on Twitter that went viral almost immediately.
Soon, Brown was featured by ESPN’s social media accounts and being flooded with messages of support, including one from legendary Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. He has since done interviews with FOX, CBS, and more. His story of heartache and perseverance has resonated with people from coast to coast.
“I’ve gotten thousands and thousands of messages and DMs, people sharing their stories, cancer, losing a parent, whether it be fighting a battle or just being sad or happy for me,” Brown said. “I’ve had the most support I’ve ever had in my life. Maybe it’s a message from my mom or just people realizing that this is a special story but that also maybe it can help others. I’m so grateful for everything and everyone.”
The latest gesture came on Wednesday when Brown was presented with a signed game-worn jersey and a message of encouragement from Indianapolis Colts All-Pro guard and former Red Bank Catholic superstar Quenton Nelson.
“It just shows you the connectivity of what this program is,” Lange said. For someone of his status to reach back to his school and a kid to uplift him any way he can, it’s special.”
Brown fondly recalled Red Bank Catholic’s Oct. 15 game at Rumson-Fair Haven where his mother was in attendance. Alex’s brother, Markus, is a sophomore wide receiver/tight end for the Bulldogs and their mom was able to witness them both play on the same field in front of upwards of 5,000 fans. Red Bank Catholic earned a 21-14 victory and Brown threw a touchdown pass in the win.
“To have a crowd like that and play in front of my mom and make her proud, for her to see both of her boys play a great game, I’m sure it touched her heart and made her fight even longer,” Brown said. “That was the last game she was able to make it onto the field for and it was a special way to go out.”
Brown lived most of his life in Manhattan before his family moved to the Middletown/Rumson area when he was in high school. He played his freshman season at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City before joining Mater Dei Prep’s football program where he was a two-year starter and an All-Shore selection. When Mater Dei shuttered its varsity football program prior to this season he transferred to Red Bank Catholic. He entered as a newcomer and a former rival but was welcomed with open arms.
“It means the world,” Brown said. “I only came here a couple years ago but the Shore community, especially RBC, it’s the best family and I’m so grateful for all the players and all the coaches. It’s something special.”
“I think it has brought us closer together,” Lange said. “A situation like that is the worst-case scenario a kid can have and I think the school, the coaches, the kids have all rallied around him. I think that makes it a special situation in all the good ways.”
Brown has been inspired by his mother on and off the football field since he was old enough to understand her battle. That certainly won’t change now that she has passed. If anything, it has inspired him to keep her name present and honor her memory with everything he does. The next gridiron opportunity comes this Friday night when Red Bank Catholic hosts St. Joseph Academy in the NJSIAA Non-Public B semifinals. The Caseys are two wins from a state title.
“We have to get it done,” Brown said. “Two more games and a big one coming up this Friday and hopefully an even bigger one after that. Honestly, I think it’s fate and destiny. The way these guys work, the coaches coming in extra days, players working all summer; it’s hard to beat a family when you’re this close and you have this much love in the community.”