Red Bank Catholic senior Alex Brown, shown as a young footballer on left with mother Michelle, scored eight touchdowns in a game just after his mother died from breast cancer. At right, Brown points to the sky after one of his scores, indicating God and his mom as his inspiration. Photos courtesy of Alex Brown's Twitter page
Red Bank Catholic senior Alex Brown, shown as a young footballer on left with mother Michelle, scored eight touchdowns in a game just after his mother died from breast cancer. At right, Brown points to the sky after one of his scores, indicating God and his mom as his inspiration. Photos courtesy of Alex Brown's Twitter page

Editor's Note: Since this article's original posting, Red Bank Catholic won the NJSIAA championship game Nov. 26 against DePaul Catholic. To read more about RBC's and Alex Brown's path to the championship, read articles HERE and HERE.

With numerous national media outlets reporting on Alex Brown’s inspiring story, much of America knows about his eight-touchdown effort in Red Bank Catholic High School’s 58-36 Non-Public A football playoff win over Denville’s Morris Catholic Nov. 12 – just one day after his mom Michelle lost a 15-year battle with breast cancer. 

What many don’t know is the courage he showed just hours after Michelle passed away. 

“I went and saw him before practice at his house,” coach Mike Lange said. “He was upset, and in my mind, I didn’t think he was coming to practice. And when I left, he said ‘I’ll see you in 20 minutes.

“He came to practice and our team was happy to see him. I think it was reassuring he was OK … OK as he could be. Obviously, he was very emotional at the end of practice but he had every intent of playing. A kid dealing with that, then hours later going out to practice, it’s pretty remarkable.”

The next night, in the Caseys’ biggest game of the year to date, the Bucknell-bound senior threw for 236 yards and six touchdowns and ran for 76 yards and two more TDs.

After one of his scores, Brown knelt in the endzone, blessed himself and pointed to the sky in recognition of the strength he received from two different sources. 

“He said that his mom is the strongest person he’s known,” said Harry Flaherty Sr., an RBC alumnus associated with a faith-based athletic group at the school. “He said, ‘I’ll never be as strong as my mom.’ I think he understands his ultimate strength comes from God, but he certainly feels that his mom has given him great strength [as well].”

He rode that strength to a memorable evening, which brought media coverage from ABC, CBS, ESPN and FOX, among others. After he tweeted out a tribute to Michelle, even legendary quarterback Tom Brady responded on Twitter via Sports Center, “proud of you @alexbrown8k.”

“There was never a doubt in my mind I was playing,” Brown told the Asbury Park Press. “That’s how she wanted it. I talked to my dad and I said, ‘I want to play for mom and make a special memory,’ and that's what happened.”

His performance left his teammates even more impressed. 

“It was insane,” said kicker Jake Jacobsen, who transferred to RBC with Brown last summer. “He had so much power in everything he did. You could tell he was really driven for his mom. Everything is football with Alex. He puts 110 percent in it.

“If that was my mom I don’t know if I could do the same,” Jacobsen continued. “A lot of kids can’t do that. This kid has so much mental toughness where he can just play through that.”

Running back Sabino Portella did not know Brown until he transferred, but now considers him one of his closest friends. Portella was impressed by the effort, but not surprised. 

“Honestly, that’s just what Alex does,” he said. “He’s the most strong-hearted kid on the team … He can deal with the amount of pressure he was [facing] at home. He always was a positive kid on and off the field. He did everything he could and he obviously showed how much he cared about his mom.”

Lange, who has had a lengthy career in coaching, saw something he’d never witnessed before. 

“We’ve had kids deal with tragedies and stuff like that,” he said. “But to have it in that time frame and that moment with what the game meant, I’ve never seen anything like it.” 

Brown and his family had dealt with Michelle’s illness since Alex was just three years old. The last game she attended was RBC’s big win over Rumson-Fair Haven Regional on Oct. 15. From that point, Michelle grew weaker, and Flaherty, would frequently go to the family home and pray with her.    

The ordeal put Alex’s faith to the test, Jacobsen attested. “He always prays a lot,” he said. “It’s tough when your mom is suffering for so long, but he definitely tries to keep his faith.” 

Portella added, “He’s definitely been expanding his faith ever since he’s come to Red Bank Catholic.  He’s had faith in God throughout this whole process.” 

Another occurrence during the process is that his dad, Ray, made sure to have Alex invite his friends and teammates to the house frequently so his wife could enjoy her son’s company – and her other "sons" as well. 

“Mrs. Brown was my second mom,” Jacobsen said. “I’d gone through a lot with her. I was crying all through class (the day she died). It was sad seeing her suffer over the years. It was a rough ride for Alex. I’ve been with him every step of the way. He’s my best friend. I’m always at his house, trying to keep him positive. His dad’s done a lot for him, trying to keep his friends at his house so he could spend more time with his mom.”

Jake felt that Michelle’s passing made Brown even stronger when he went out to play against Morris Catholic. 

“His mom was always big into motivation,” he said. “She was his biggest supporter in everything he did. Right before she passed away, when she was very sick, her final week, I saw her. She couldn’t [easily] talk but she was talking the whole time about the game to me, and how it was a big game.”

Portella was also a huge fan of Michelle’s, who gave him the same lecture she gave Jacobsen.

“She was honestly the sweetest human you could ever meet,” he said. “A week before her passing I went over there to see how she was doing. I walked in with some tears in my eyes and [she had] a smile on her face. She was the best. She made us promise ‘Pray for me, beat their butt.’”

And with that, the entire team went out and played for Alex’s mom. 

“We all knew her, we all knew she was the best,” Portella said. “We knew how important the season and especially that game was for her. We wanted to prove to Alex we were all there for him and we definitely played our hearts out for [them both].”

Portella said that after Brown threw his first touchdown pass, “I knew right away he was gonna do something special. It was just going all game. The first whistle to the last, he was just doing his thing.” 

And with that, Portella summed the night up perfectly. “It was just a kid playing something he loved for someone he loved.”