Equanimeous and Amon-Ra St. Brown have been competitors since childhood, long before their battles sharpened both into N.F.L. receivers.
Their abilities on and off the field were stoked by their parents. Miriam Brown, their mother, who was born in Germany, spoke to them exclusively in German and enrolled them in a French immersion school.
Their father, John, a weight lifter who won a Mr. Universe title in 1981 and 1982 and was named Mr. World three times, trained all three boys (another brother, Osiris, 24, was a receiver at Stanford from 2017 to 2020) starting when Equanimeous was 8, showing them proper form by using a PVC pipe in lieu of barbells for their reps.
Their father still trains both as pros. During Amon-Ra’s standout turn on the last season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” documentary series, John extolled the virtues of calf raises by speculating that Kevin Durant’s Achilles’ tear owed to not doing enough of them.
On Sunday, Equanimeous, 26, a receiver for the Chicago Bears, and Amon-Ra, 23, a receiver for the Detroit Lions, will face off in a divisional matchup. During a videoconference call in October, the brothers discussed how their upbringing helped them develop personalities separate from their football success.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Do you think your upbringing gave you a unique perspective on sports and life, in general?
EQUANIMEOUS ST. BROWN: Yeah, I think we have a worldly view on things because we traveled a lot when we were younger. Being exposed to different people and cultures gave us more understanding of people from different backgrounds, so I think that gave me an advantage in life — especially when it comes to teammates and making new connections.
AMON-RA ST. BROWN: I think having the combination obviously helps in football, because learning plays is a huge part of the sport, as is being able to read defenses. As for our mom being so hard on us in the classroom, having a good memory can help you get good grades because that’s a lot of what test taking really is, so we were able to learn things quickly.
You attended school in France for a semester when you were in elementary school. What was that adjustment like and how have you benefited from the experience?
EQUANIMEOUS: Being able to relate to people, but we also got to see how other kids lived. We got to see how they stereotyped us as Americans before we got there and how they reacted to us after. It was interesting to see how people in France view Americans and how they thought we would be.
AMON-RA: Going to school in France was different for us after having gone to school in America for so long, but it honestly wasn’t that bad because we went to a French school growing up. All we really did there was speak French — even at recess. The kids might not be speaking French, but all the teachers did, so it wasn’t that different. Walking to school, not having a car and taking the metro. I was so young that it kind of felt normal looking back on it, and it would definitely be weird if I were to do that now, but I loved it and I’m glad my dad did that for us.
Speaking of your father, I’m sure you noticed how your training regimen separated you from other kids growing up. Do you feel like it’s given you an edge as pros?
AMON-RA: I think it does. Growing up, we trained a certain way. Our dad let us eat what we wanted growing up; he just wanted to make sure we got enough protein. But in terms of working out and taking care of your body, he taught us a lot about the importance of sleep and hydration.
EQUANIMEOUS: I think it made a bigger difference when we were playing Pop Warner, then in high school and college. People have a lot of resources at the professional level. They have them in college, but everything gets better when you go up a level.
Amon-Ra, do you feel like being the youngest made you more competitive because you basically had two older, in-house competitors?
AMON-RA: Being the youngest definitely made me competitive, but I would say that the house we grew up in was competitive, in general. I think it’s instilled in you if your parents or trainer are super competitive, but having two older brothers definitely makes you want to keep up with them and what they’re doing. Being smaller makes you fight a little harder.
Equanimeous, at what point did you realize that you couldn’t “little brother” them anymore?
EQUANIMEOUS: Still can.
AMON-RA: What a statement.
EQUANIMEOUS: Nah, but probably once they got to college. That’s when they grew into their bodies, but they’re still my little brothers — both of them.
Can both of you describe what makes the other a fierce competitor?
EQUANIMEOUS: One of Amon’s biggest strengths, and I don’t know if he thinks about this, is that he always played with older kids in Pop Warner. I played with my age or kids I was a little older than. So I think when he finally got to high school and college, it gave him a big advantage.
AMON-RA: I would say that for him, being in the super-competitive household we grew up in kind of makes you the person that you are. That’s where all three of us get our competitive edge from: just being in that type of atmosphere for so long.
You’ve played in the same division since you’ve both been in the N.F.L. Do you connect at all during the weeks your teams play against each other or do you keep a competitive distance?
EQUANIMEOUS: We’re always playing video games together so we’re always talking, but we don’t normally talk about football too much.
Which games do you normally play?
AMON-RA: Together, we play “FIFA” and “Call of Duty: Warzone.” But there are games like “NBA 2K” that I like to play that he doesn’t, and there are games he plays that I don’t.
Do you keep track of who wins?
AMON-RA: Definitely. With “Call of Duty,” it’s kind of easier to tell, but even when we’re playing “FIFA” I usually beat him. But he knows that.
EQUANIMEOUS: Sometimes, younger brothers like to lie.