Rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown's late-season surge in production can be mostly attributed to two factors – his mental makeup and his work ethic.
St. Brown said after Sunday's most recent output, an 8-catch, 111-yard outing in Seattle that included a receiving and rushing touchdown – he can name all 16 receivers selected before he came off the board at No. 112 in the fourth round of last year's NFL Draft. He even referenced the one on the other sideline last week – Seattle's D'Wayne Eskridge, who was taken 56th overall in the second round.
It's something St. Brown has used as fuel since April.
"It was definitely one of the moments in my life I won't forget," St. Brown said after the Seattle game about his draft experience. "That feeling that I had. Day 1 went by, I wasn't expecting to get drafted. Day 2, I was expecting to maybe hear my name, and seeing so many receivers go before me, that feeling that I had inside, I can't even explain it. It was gut-wrenching.
"It does motivate me. Every time I'm doing something well, people are patting my back, I just think of those 16 that went before me and how I felt. That just keeps me going."
St. Brown has become the first rookie in the Super Bowl era to have five straight games catching at least eight passes. He already owns the Lions franchise record for most receptions as a rookie.
Only Miami's Jaylen Waddle, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2021 draft, has more receptions (99) than St. Brown's 82 on the season. Cincinnati's Ja'Marr Chase (1,429), Waddle (988) and Philadelphia's DeVonta Smith (875) are the only rookies who have more receiving yards than St. Brown's 803. Chase, Waddle and Smith were all top 10 picks in last year's draft.
St. Brown is highly motivated from what he views as a draft-day snub, but he also puts in the work on the field and in the classroom. That is proving to be a killer combination for both him and the Lions.
Whether it's spending countless hours on the jugs machine catching at least 200 passes a day after practice, or spending extra time in the classroom and with the quarterbacks learning coverages, St. Brown puts the time in.
Asked about St. Brown after the Seahawks game, Lions quarterback Tim Boyle said St. Brown is very advanced for a young receiver in the way he's trying to understand the NFL game. Boyle said receivers ask quarterbacks questions about coverages and routes all the time, but it's the level of questioning from St. Brown that made Detroit's quarterback room take notice.
"He's trying to understand why we're killing certain plays so he can kind of anticipate what we're thinking," Boyle said. "I think the best receiver, tight end, running backs are the players who are mentally kind of understanding what we understand with the game.
"Why we're doing x, y, z and I think that's what is so special about him. He's just an instinctive, smart football player."
On top of all that, St. Brown's got the perfect mindset to fit into the culture head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes are trying to build in Detroit. He was asked Sunday night about the next milestone he wants to reach after recording his first 100-yard receiving performance against the Seahawks, and he responded: "Honestly, beating Green Bay next week."
St. Brown is already the team's best blocker at the receiver position, which further speaks to his team-first mentality and unselfishness. He's just as complete a rookie receiver as the Lions have had in some time, and the crazy part is the coaches think he's just scratching the surface of what he can become.
"He's always been – he's a little bit more mature than most rookies," Campbell said of St. Brown. "There is an intensity about him. We've said this really kind of from day one when we started in camp, but he's cut the right way. He's all about business and he's competitive.
"He's really a total player, run game, pass game. Hell, you see him carry the ball. He's smart and when you have a guy that is that competitive, that smart, that versatile, the sky is the limit and it makes it fun for us as coaches because you feel like you can start tinkering a little bit and you can do different things with him and find different mismatches in the defense. We love his attitude. He's all ball, he's all business and he's tough."
It's been a tough season overall for the Lions, but St. Brown has been a bright spot. It's easy to root for a player who says all the right things, does all the right things, and cares about winning.