When Royce Metchie was in Grade 8, he had an inkling his youngest brother could be a special football player.
"There were times at recess when we were playing flag or touch football and I remember thinking, 'Well the teams are uneven. That's fine, I'll just go get my younger brother to play," Royce Metchie said during a telephone interview. "Even at that time some of my friends said, 'No, that's unfair.'
"I'd always reply, 'Wait, are you guys a little afraid of him? He's four years younger than us. That doesn't make sense.'"
It certainly does now as John Metchie III has blossomed into a star receiver with the top-ranked Crimson Tide (6-0) as a sophomore.
"For me, its always been there," said Royce Metchie, a defensive back with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders. "I've always known how talented he was."
John Metchie III has 24 catches for 517 yards (21.5-yard average) with three touchdowns. The six-foot, 195-pound former Brampton, Ont., resident was added to the watch list for Biletnkioff Award - given annually to American college football's top receiver - after registering seven receptions for 151 yards in Alabama's 48-17 win over Tennessee, a contest that saw Jaylen Waddle (25 catches, 557 yards, four TDs) suffer a season-ending broken ankle on the opening kickoff.
"He's always exuded a certain level of not just confidence but maturity for his age, which is quite admirable," Royce Metchie said. "It's always a great feeling to watch a younger sibling succeed but seeing him succeed on such a high level and big stage, it's just amazing.
"It's the best thing I could hope for him."
John Metchie is certainly following in the footsteps of his older brothers, who all played collegiate football in Canada. Miles Metchie was a linebacker at Guelph while Leon Metchie was a defensive back at Saint Mary's and Royce played at Guelph before being drafted in the third round, No. 25 overall, by Calgary in 2018.
Eight years separate the Metchie boys, with John and Royce, 24, being the two youngest. But Royce Metchie said the brothers have always been close, in part because their family moved a lot while they were young.
"I think that brought us very close together as a family," he said. "I'd say we were very blessed and lucky because we always had each other."
John Metchie was born in Taiwan, and lived in Ghana before the family settled in Brampton when he was six. But he relocated to Maryland to attend high school while his family remained in Canada.
"I wouldn't say one day we sat down and said that," Royce Metchie said. "It was something the three of us and mom talked about, that at least one of us should have the opportunity to have that experience.
"Mom was probably the most worried because that's her baby. But me and my brothers, we knew he was going to do well because, frankly, that's something we do, we're able to adjust to different places pretty well."
John Metchie attended St. James School in Hagerstown, Md., before transferring to The Peddie School in New Jersey for a post-graduate season. He ran for over 1,300 yards, had 2,500 receiving yards and scored 42 TDs at St. James while also registering 14 interceptions and 19 pass deflections.
But there was adversity. In 2014 as a freshman, Metchie was diagnosed with an enlarged heart that was causing murmurs and sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Being away from home forced Metchie to go through much of the recovery process on his own. But he persevered, not only receiving medical clearance to resume playing the next season but also catching the eye of Alabama officials as well as those from Georgia, Maryland and Penn State, most notably.
"He's someone who has a chip on his shoulder and feels like he has something to prove," Royce Metchie said.
And while Royce Metchie and his younger brother speak often, they've yet to talk about pro football.
"To be very honest, my conversations with him usually focus a lot on the present," Royce Metchie said. "I know he's mature enough to have that conversation, I know he's mature enough to understand.
"As a brother, I prefer just to talk to him to make sure he's enjoying the college experience, having fun in his social life and academic life . . . because it's not like he's just going to school in the U.S., he's going to the University of Alabama, which is considered to be one of the best universities when it comes to football."
All of which begs the question, which of the four Metchie brothers is the fastest?
"We'll leave that as one of the unsolved mysteries of the world," Royce Metchie said with a chuckle. "It's a cliché thing to say but honestly, to watch him - not just as an older brother but as a football player - I personally think he has no ceiling."
Royce Metchie isn't playing football as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the CFL to cancel the 2020 season. But it's allowed him to catch up with family and friends at a time when he's usually in full football mode.
"It's been challenging but I've tried my best to stay in shape," he said "When we look at it, usually at this time of year we're playing football and we're away from family.
"I've taken this time as a blessing to catch up on a lot of missed time with family and friends."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2020.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press