It was a performance for the ages in the most emotional moment imaginable.
A day after Red Bank Catholic quarterback Alex Brown lost his mom Michelle after her 15-year battle with breast cancer, he came through with an unforgettable tribute for his biggest fan Friday night at Count Basie Field.
“There was never a doubt in my mind I was playing,” Brown said. “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.”
It certainly did. Brown generated eight touchdowns – throwing six TD passes and running for two more scores – in a 58-34 victory over Morris Catholic in an NJSIAA Non-Public B playoff game in Red Bank.
Brown’s father, Ray, said, “I’m not super religious but I am spiritual. And I truly believe this whole game was scripted before it happened.”
“It was just an incredibly emotional, even to the point a lot of things my wife did, things like she would kick him three times in the butt and says, ‘Go get ‘em, Tiger,’ and I had to do that. So it was emotional. He was texting her phone right before the game saying things to her.”
Since then, the inspiring story has touched hearts everywhere. The viral response after Alex Brown posted photos and a video on social media has been overwhelming.
Even Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady weighed in on the courageous effort.
“It’s been insane,” Brown said. “I posted a video because I wanted to make a tribute, posted it on Instagram and Twitter thanking her for watching over me. I looked the next day and I have over 5 million views and 100,000 likes and I’m getting a call from ESPN SportsCenter and getting a call from Fox. And I see Tom Brady commenting and texting me a nice paragraph about me and my mom and playing football.”
All that happened on Saturday, which happened to be Alex Brown’s 18th birthday.
Three weeks earlier, the entire family, including Michelle and son Markus, a sophomore who plays for Rumson-Fair Haven, experienced an incredible night at Borden Stadium, when nearly 6,000 fans came to see No. 2 Red Bank Catholic upend No. 1 Rumson, 21-14.
After the game, they gathered on the field for a photo on what would be the last night Michelle saw her son’s play football in person.
“That was a meaningful moment, for sure,” Ray Brown said. “She just loved seeing her boys play football. “
Against Morris Catholic, Brown, a senior committed to play at Bucknell, opened the game with a 52-yard TD pass. And after a long scoring run, he took a knee in the end zone and pointed skyward.
“After I threw that first touchdown pass I knew she was looking down the whole night,” Brown said.
“If she saw a game like that and I could talk to her now, I know that I made her as proud as possible and she would be screaming her head off hugging me, kissing me, telling me how much she loves me and how proud she was of me – she would get very teary-eyed.”
Second-seeded Red Bank Catholic hosts St. Joseph-Hammonton in a Non-Public B state playoff semifinal Friday, when Brown will once again seek to honor his mother’s memory. That will be the case every time he takes the field now, while her spirit will drive him long after his playing days are over.
“If God has a plan, I don’t know why he chose my mom. I can’t explain that part of it,” Brown said. “But the one thing I do understand is that she definitely has made me stronger and other people stronger, and she has inspired me and apparently the whole world.
“Dealing with something as terrible as this and fighting for as long as she did knowing she shouldn’t have made it this long, it’s the one thing that drives me to be great every day.”
Stephen Edelson is a USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey sports columnist who has been covering athletics in the state and at the Jersey Shore for nearly 35 years. Contact him at: @SteveEdelsonAPP; [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Alex Brown, Red Bank Catholic quarterback, with 8 touchdowns after mom died