Tucked away 5 miles east of Starkville, Mississippi, lies a small, rural group referred to as Mhoon Farm. Yes, the “h” is intentional. It’s not on any map, nobody is aware of the true historical past of the title — a number of individuals have stated it’s named after a dairy farm that not exists — and at its middle is one other smaller group referred to as sixteenth Section, the place communal life revolves round sixteenth Section Missionary Baptist Church.
Mhoon Farm can also be the hometown of, oddly sufficient, two gamers who’ll compete in opposition to one another in Super Bowl LVII: Philadelphia Eagles receiver A.J. Brown and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay.
The two, who gained a state title at Starkville High School collectively in 2015, lived about 5 minutes other than one another and went to church gatherings collectively. Brown’s household lived north of the church on sixteenth Section Road, whereas Gay’s household lived south of the church alongside the identical street. Brown’s father is a deacon, his mom is the Sunday college instructor, and Gay’s great-great-grandfather was the pastor.
The gamers diverged in faculty however stayed throughout the state as Brown headed to Ole Miss whereas Gay starred at close by Mississippi State.
Now, they’ll face one another in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Brown, who the Eagles acquired this previous offseason from the Tennessee Titans, leads the crew with 1,496 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns. Gay, a third-year, second-round draft choose, is third on the Chiefs with 88 mixed tackles and began all 13 video games he was lively this season.
“It means lots for each of us enjoying on this recreation,” Brown informed Yahoo Sports this week. “It means every thing to the place we’re from — to Starkville. Guys not too removed from one another enjoying in one of many greatest video games. I hope it provides the children again residence hope that you are able to do no matter you need to do.”
“Watching A.J. a 12 months forward of me, it motivated me lots,” Gay informed Yahoo Sports this week. “Especially now seeing him succeed a lot, it is large for me, the children again residence the place we’re from. We like to see it. We each know we’re leaving a constructive picture for these youngsters to see.”
A.J. Brown landed in Philadelphia through commerce final offseason. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Brown and Gay aren’t the one former highschool teammates to be competing in opposition to one another this Super Bowl. There are three different pairs: Eagles exterior linebacker Robert Quinn and Chiefs defensive finish Carlos Dunlap performed collectively at Fort Dorchester High School in North Charleston, South Carolina; Eagles linebacker Kyron Johnson and Chiefs backup quarterback Shane Buechele went to Lamar High School in Arlington, Texas, collectively; and Eagles observe squad offensive lineman Sua Opeta and Chiefs cornerback Zayne Anderson attended Stansbury High School collectively in Stansbury Park, Utah.
Brown and Gay would be the solely pair more likely to actually line up in opposition to one another on any given snap.
“From the time that they have been college age — I’m saying first or second grade — during highschool, their lives have been intertwined,” Aundrea Self, a tv reporter for WCBI in Starkville, informed Yahoo Sports. “Who knew that these little boys would find yourself profitable a state championship collectively, however then going to rival faculties and now they’re opponents on the Super Bowl? It’s simply superb.”
They performed peewee soccer collectively as youngsters on the now-closed Alexander Elementary School close to each of their homes and have become two of the leaders on their championship profitable crew — Brown as a senior wideout frequently triple-teamed and Gay as a junior linebacker who “may play any place on the sphere should you wished,” in accordance with then head-coach Ricky Woods.
“They have been each great athletes,” Woods informed Yahoo Sports. “But what made ’em higher than something was the type of individuals they have been.”
Both at all times got here to observe with a smile on their face, Woods remembers, and led by instance somewhat than with phrases. Before each observe, receivers would run 20 routes and should do 30 push-ups for each uncontested cross they dropped. Woods says Brown by no means dropped any of these passes his senior 12 months. And throughout video games, Brown dominated. In a matchup in opposition to Callaway in 2015, Brown caught a wild cross in double protection and completed with 5 receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
As for Gay, he captained a Starkville protection that held opponents to 11 factors per recreation throughout its championship season and completed with 84 tackles, 17 for loss and 6 sacks. He switched from linebacker to quarterback for a part of his senior 12 months following the championship 12 months when Starkville’s offense wanted a jolt and completed one pivotal recreation with 5 speeding touchdowns and 325 speeding yards — although he did not try a cross.
“They’re simply nice, blue-collar youngsters,” former highschool head coach Jamie Mitchell, who coached each earlier than Woods, informed Yahoo Sports. “I feel that helped them a lot of their work ethic. Both of them, they weren’t given something early on.”
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay performed some quarterback in highschool in Mississippi. (Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)
The two labored continually to raised themselves in highschool. Neither have been “into crowds” and frolicked with separate smaller teams or targeted solely on sports activities. Brown really skipped his freshman season to concentrate on baseball earlier than returning his sophomore 12 months after some convincing from teammate Ralph Leonard. Gay, in the meantime, “utterly self-made his physique” between his first two years earlier than he grew to become a defensive star.
“The guys have been self-motivated, decided,” assistant coach Willie Gillespie informed Yahoo Sports. “They have been decided to be nice, You can see it in them. You can see the way in which they carried themselves.”
As for Mhoon Farm and Starkville, they’re simply rooting for his or her hometown heroes.
“Those guys actually have been particular guys. They nonetheless are particular guys,” Gillespie stated. “The world is getting an opportunity to see what we we noticed in highschool. And it gained’t be any totally different on Sunday. A.J.’s gonna be learn to play. Willie’s going to be able to play. And we out right here in Starkville are type of pulling for each of ‘em.”