Meet Raleek Brown, a Stockton youth football legend churning toward USC fame

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Sometimes, you just know. You feel it deep in your gut. There is nothing so obvious as an immediate, impassable sense of certainty that nothing can convince you otherwise.

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This was what Mori Sue had in mind when she saw Raleigh Brown on the football field. He just knew. He knew before the warmup ended for the first Little League All-Star tryout. He knew how Brown had gone at just 12 years old, so abruptly and yet so smooth, deftly biting one penny after another, swiftly one after another… two… three… Four unheard defenders easily. He knew that in the Browns’ hometown of Stockton they’ll tell you they’ve always known—at least since crowds began to flock to watch the youth football phenom he once called “Mighty Mouse.”

Others who brought Brown along the way, from the Southside Vikings to USC, similarly explain how they believed Brown was bound for stardom. That’s all they knew, he says—always with equal emphasis on the word.


At USC, teammates took a few days off during pre-season camp before treating the freshman’s bright future as a foregone conclusion. His eyes lit up whenever he was asked about Brown.


“It’s something I [saw] Day one,” says USC receiver Tehaj Washington.

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“It surprises me,” said Austin Jones, a fellow USC running back. ,[I was] Just sitting back in fall camp, like, ‘This dude is real.'”

Raleigh Brown takes the USC ball running back during a win over Stanford on September 10.
(Godofredo A. Vasquez/The Associated Press)

“He was lightning. You knew that if he stayed on course, he was going to be a big player.”

– Clay Helton, on the impact a young Raleigh Brown left on him

Until that trial, Suu Suu had not yet heard much about her. But Brown’s father, Roscoe, was familiar with Sue’s trial. He already had a reputation as a respected local seven-on-seven coach and talent appraiser in Northern California. So Rosco approached him in the hope that he would see his son. He knew Sue’s trial was working with Nazi Harris. Before that, he coached Joe Mixon. Both would end up as No. 1 backs in their recruiting class, before becoming two of the best in the NFL.

That is to say, Suu Kyi knew better to run back after seeing Sue. “I haven’t missed a baby yet,” he says.


And in the case of this particular child, he was convinced. So much so that later that summer, he and his friend and fellow coach, Stuart Tua, sought to test the limits of Brown’s extraordinary talent.

Six years before Heisman posed at the Coliseum End Zone, two coaches brought Brown to campus for one of the Trojans’ elite football camps, boldly announcing his arrival during USC’s 2022 season opener. He was still only 12 years old. But the coaches say they were able to sneak him in with the intention of testing him against many of the high school’s top prospects.

In one photo from that day, a smiling Sue is standing next to a pint-sized brownie, who at the time may not have weighed more than 100 pounds. He’s wearing lime-green leggings that stand between a cardinal-and-gold throng on Cromwell Field and distract from the uncertain expression on Brown’s face.

It was a bold plan, but both coaches say they were convinced of the child’s potential. He didn’t tell anyone that he was still in grad school. It wasn’t until the end of camp, when a friend of his, Kerry Colbert, who was then a USC assistant, got in touch with the news.

“KC comes over and tells us, ‘Hey, just to let you know, your kid is going to run back to camp to win MVP,'” Sue Sue said. He thinks back. “Remember, these are the best of class 10th and 11th.”

“I laughed out loud,” said Tua. “There were some four- and five-star linebackers that he made very silly. No one had any idea he was 12 years old.”

They reached out to Colbert, who could not believe it.

Brown didn’t officially win the MVP that day… for obvious reasons. But his performance convinced USC staff, who waited until the summer before starting high school, to officially offer him a scholarship.

Years later, Clay Helton couldn’t remember many specials from that one summer camp. But the former Trojans head coach still remembers the young running back’s first impression at USC.

“That was lightning,” Helton explained via text message. “You knew that if he stayed on course, he was going to be a big-time player.”

Talk to the people around Brown, and they say they’ve always known he’s on his way to doing something extraordinary. And soon, they insist, everyone else will find out too.

Roscoe Brown was sure that his son would be watching Brown running around the yard as a toddler. He knew, because years earlier, he was a runner at Edison High in Stockton, specializing in the 100- and 200-meters. He understood speed. And her son, whom she soon learned, had a special kind of fasting.

Those initial assumptions were confirmed shortly after Brown’s fourth birthday, when Roscoe first signed him up for Flag Football. In his competitive football debut, Roscoe recalls, Brown scored at least five touchdowns. He lasted just one season in that league before Roscoe went ahead to contact him.


From then on, her father says, “We always had to take her a few years ahead of her age group. He was always ahead of his time.”

Although he went a long way, Brown still seemed to live up to previous expectations. Soon, he lost track of his touchdown. In his second season of contact football, Roscoe estimates that his 6-year-old son scored 72 times, but he cannot say for sure. After that the crowd started building.

Her pure speed seemed to translate to every level, so Roscoe trained her to use it. He entered the FBU football camps, starting in the fourth grade, to challenge him. But eventually, it became clear that his son needed additional guidance. So Roscoe asks for Sue’s help.

“As soon as he saw Ralek touch the ball, it was a no-brainer,” Roscoe said. “He hasn’t left his side since then.”

That summer, Suu Kyi brought Young back to tryouts for her seven-on-seven team so that Tua, her trusted fellow coach, could see the Browns for herself.

Raleigh Brown joins Mori Sue's trial at a USC football camp.
Raleigh Brown joins Mori Sue’s trial at a USC football camp. Brown was in sixth grade at the time, but he was competitive with a camp featuring high school athletes.
(courtesy of Mori Sue)

“He had just gotten over the high school kids. It was honestly dumb.”

– Mori Suu Kyi, age 12 on Ralike Brown

“It basically took me two or three plays to realize, oh, this is the best back,” Tua said. He also surprised Sue’s trial by immediately picking up Brown and starting running back.

The decision upset some parents whose sons were starting to withdraw from their respective high school teams.


“So,” Tua explains, “I told him, ‘Let’s settle it right here.’ I brought Ralek out, and I had Ralek guard these two kids, then I let Ralek guard them in return. Let’s just say the outcome was not good for them.”

They took him to USC’s campus a few months later. Brown received his first Power Five offer from Brigham Young that summer, essentially at Sue’s word.

Words soon began to trickle in about Brown. Meanwhile, he had no choice but to return to Stockton Little League football.

Suu Kyi said with a laugh, “He was overpowered by the high school kids.” “It was honestly dumb.”

Booker Guyton knew well before Brown’s arrival at Addison High that he was at some point a different type of talent than Stockton. Maybe sometime. YouTube highlight reels already existed. “By the time he was 8 years old, he was a folk hero,” says Guyton.

Curious, Edison’s coach once invited Pop Warner Phenom and his father to a university practice. When she saw Brown on the sidelines, she told him to throw on some cleats.

“The route he walked was so explosive and so disrespectful to DB that I looked at his father and said to him, ‘Man, he can play varsity right now,'” Guyton says.

“They took over the community. People who didn’t even root for Edison were coming to watch football, you know, to see this kid play. So when he left, he shook our town Gave.”

—Booker Guyton, on Raelik Brown’s influence at Edison High in Stockton, Calif.

To no one was surprised when Brown took over at Edison immediately as a freshman and never looked back, racking up a total of 2,429 yards and 28 touchdowns. He was named the conference’s MVP as the first-year running back. The Browns made their presence felt in other ways as well, as Edison won his first league title in more than 40 years.

During his first high school game, Guyton recalls a play in which Brown caused a fumble on the defense, only for a teammate to turn around as a blocker and lead the way, who scored a blunder. The thunder returned.

“Who does that as a ninth grader?” Guyton says. “You can’t coach it.”

Guyton told Roscoe that he believed his son would put Edison “on the map”. But Brown was dominating so easily that those closest to him were wondering if he would ever be challenged enough at Edison. He eventually stayed on as a sophomore and repeated as MVP, racking up 26 more touchdowns, which only deepened that sentiment.


His decision to move was not about football alone. Roscoe is also concerned about the violence and high crime rate in his hometown. “I didn’t want her around this anymore,” he said.

Got something in Stockton. Guyton admitted that he was not one of them initially.

“He captured the community,” Guyton said. “People who didn’t even root for Edison were coming to watch football, you know, to see this kid play. So when he left, it shook our town. … But he wanted a bigger challenge, and he went and achieved it at Mater Dei.”

Bruce Rollinson had his own…


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