Can a lineman who primarily only plays on offense ever be named State Player of the Year? For the 2016 season, the answer is an emphatic YES. St. John Bosco’s senior leader off of its CIF Open Division state title team is indeed the Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Football State Player of the Year. It’s not as much of a no-brainer as we’ve had in the past, however, since one of the finalists was last year’s honoree. Still, Davis now joins the all-time state list that goes back for more than 100 years.
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To be a lineman and to be chosen as the Mr. Football State Player of the Year, that lineman would have to clear a lot of hurdles. Let’s see how St. John Bosco All-American Wyatt Davis did it.
Is Davis one of the best linemen we’ve ever seen in our 35-plus years of running Cal-Hi Sports? Yes. We’d still perhaps rank Don Mosebar of Visalia Mt. Whitney as the best-ever, but he couldn’t be State Player of the Year in 1978 since Granada Hills had a QB named John Elway. Regardless, Davis would be near the top of a short list that would include the last lineman to be State Player of the Year, Concord De La Salle’s Derek Landri for 2001, and last year’s all-state tackle, Folsom’s Jonah Williams, who just started as a true freshman for Alabama in the national title game vs. Clemson.
Davis also has been ranked as among the best linemen ever seen by longtime correspondents Ronnie Flores and Harold Abend and longtime L.A. Times high school editor Eric Sondheimer.
Second, did Davis help lead a team to a state title? No problem there. And it was the way in which his St. John Bosco team defeated its last three opponents, Corona Centennial, Santa Ana Mater Dei and De La Salle, which was by dominating line play and balanced offense running and passing. Junior QB Re-Al Mitchell also should get a lot of the credit for that, but all of the post-season accolades handed out so far involving the Braves, such as L.A. Times Player of the Year and Long Beach Press-Telegram Player of the Year, have gone to Davis.
Heading into the CIF Southern Section Division I championship, it’s safe to say that Santa Ana Mater Dei sophomore QB J.T. Daniels was the front-runner to be Mr. Football for this season. And if the Monarchs had won in that game, instead of losing in a rematch to their Trinity League rivals, Daniels would have added another game to his impressive season totals. Davis didn’t gain a yard, complete a pass or make a tackle in that game, but if his teammates hadn’t done those things then he wouldn’t have earned any post-season honors beside the obvious ones as an offensive lineman.
Last year’s Mr. Football State Player of the Year, Antioch’s Najee Harris, also was strongly considered once again and would have been the first back-to-back winner on the all-time state list since 1913. Harris, widely regarded as well as the top overall recruit in the nation for this year, finished with similar season totals as last year, but was hurt this time when other running backs playing in the same games as him (especially Ronnie Rivers from league rival Freedom of Oakley) had more explosive outings.
We don’t disagree with any of the player rankings and Najee remains the best running back we’ve ever seen from Northern California. It’s just by the criteria always used for State Player of the Year, others emerged this time compared to last time. We’re now just more glad than ever that Najee will always be on the all-time state list as we expect his career to only blossom in college and beyond.
In a way, Davis getting this year’s No. 1 player honor also is a reflection of the overall success of the St. John Bosco program under head coach Jason Negro since 2012. While he’s the school’s first-ever Mr. Football State Player of the Year, there have been several others who were close and if not for upset losses might have been chosen earlier, particularly quarterback Josh Rosen in 2014 and running back Sean McGrew. They were both the junior and sophomore of the year in 2013. Davis also is the first State POY from the Long Beach area since receiver/multi-purpose standout Desean Jackson of Long Beach Poly in 2004.
Davis also is even more rare than the other linemen who have managed to become State Player of the Year — Anaheim Esperanza’s Travis Kirschke was another one for 1992 — in that he only played offense. In a program like Bosco’s, that has to be the case. It also didn’t matter. The team’s two-pronged running attack with senior Terrance Beasley and junior Demetrius Flowers often featured Davis at the point of the blocking holes. And when Mitchell did go back to pass, it was almost impossible getting any pressure on him.
Ranked as a five-star prospect by many recruiting services, Davis is seen as a guard at Ohio State, which is where he’ll play next season. At Bosco, he played everywhere along the front except center and in the second Mater Dei game he was moving from one side to the other. In one memorable play, Davis blocked three players and the video of that play became viral on social media.
This type of success is nothing new for Davis and his family. Wyatt is the grandson of NFL Hall of Fame defensive back Willie Davis of Green Bay Packers fame. His father, Duane Davis, has played many boxing and football-related roles as an actor in television and movies, including roles as Joe Louis, Buster Douglas and others.
This is one Davis who doesn’t play around, however, especially if a championship for his team is on the line.
Here is the all-time list of Mr. Football State Players of the Year (all selected by Cal-Hi Sports but done retroactively based on research prior to 1975 by our late founder, the great Nelson Tennis):
2016 — Wyatt Davis (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) OL
2015 — Najee Harris (Antioch) RB (Jr.)
2014 — Jake Browning (Folsom) QB
2013 — Adoree’ Jackson (Serra, Gardena) WR-DB
2012 — Michael Hutchings (De La Salle, Concord) LB
2011 — Deontay Greenberry (Washington Union, Easton) WR-DB
2010 — Dano Graves (Folsom) QB
2009 — Dillon Baxter (Mission Bay, San Diego) QB-RB
2008 — Tyler Gaffney (Cathedral Catholic, San Diego) RB
2007 — Milton Knox (Birmingham, Lake Balboa) RB
2006 — Aaron Corp (Lutheran, Orange) QB
2005 — Toby Gerhart (Norco) RB
2004 — Desean Jackson (Poly, Long Beach) WR-DB-KR
2003 — Sean Norton (Hart, Newhall) QB
2002 — Whitney Lewis (St. Bonaventure, Ventura) WR-RB
2001 — Derek Landri (De La Salle, Concord) OL-DL
2000 — Tyler Ebell (Ventura) RB
1999 — D.J. Williams (De La Salle, Concord) RB-LB
1998 — Kyle Boller (Hart, Newhall) QB
1997 — DeShaun Foster (Tustin) RB
1996 — Rod Perry (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) WR-DB
1995 — Chris Claiborne (J.W. North, Riverside) RB-LB
1994 — Daylon McCutcheon (Bishop Amat, La Puente) RB-DB
1993 — Keith Smith (Newbury Park) QB
1992 — Travis Kirschke (Esperanza, Anaheim) OL-DL
1991 — Amani Toomer (De La Salle, Concord) WR
1990 — Napoleon Kaufman (Lompoc) RB
1989 — Ryan Hancock (Monta Vista, Cupertino) QB
1988 — Tommie Smith (Antelope Valley, Lancaster) RB-DB
1987 — Bret Johnson (El Toro) QB
1986 — Russell White (Crespi, Encino) RB (Soph.)
1985 — Terry Rodgers (Sweetwater, National City) RB-KR
1984 — Aaron Emanuel (Quartz Hill) RB
1983 — Ryan Knight (Rubidoux, Riverside) RB
1982 — John Paye (Menlo School, Atherton) QB
1981 — Kevin Willhite (Cordova, Rancho Cordova) RB
1980 — Michael Alo (Banning, Wilmington) FB
1979 — Kerwin Bell (Edison, Huntington Beach) RB
1978 — John Elway (Granada Hills) QB
1977 — Marcus Allen (Lincoln, San Diego) QB
1976 — Freeman McNeil (Banning, Wilmington) RB
1975 — Charles White (San Fernando) RB
1974 — Myron White (Santa Ana Valley) RB
1973 — Frank Manumaluena (Banning, Wilm.) LB
1972 — Wally Henry (Lincoln, San Diego) RB
1971 — John Sciarra (Bishop Amat, La Puente) QB
1970 — Pat Haden (Bishop Amat, La Puente) QB
1969 — James McAlister (Blair, Pasadena) RB
1968 — Jesse Freitas (Serra, San Mateo) QB
1967 — Calvin Jones (Balboa, San Francisco) RB (Jr.)
1966 — Mickey Cureton (Centennial, Compton) RB
1965 — Greg Jones (South San Francisco) RB
1964 — George Buehler (Whittier) LB-OL
1963 — Tim Rossovich (St. Francis, MV) LB
1962 — Steve Grady (Loyola, Los Angeles) RB
1961 — Mike Garrett (Roosevelt, Los Angeles) RB
1960 — Kent Nance (Madera) RB
1959 — Willie Brown (Poly, Long Beach) RB
1958 — Daryle Lamonica (Clovis) QB
1957 — Jim Josephson (Bellarmine, San Jose) FB
1956 — Randy Meadows (Downey) RB
1955 — Mickey Flynn (Anaheim) RB (Jr.)
1954 — Dick Bass (Vallejo) RB
1953 — C.R. Roberts (Oceanside) RB
1952 — Ronnie Knox (Santa Monica) QB
1951 — Marty Keough (Pomona) RB
1950 — Charley Powell (San Diego) E
1949 — Paul Larson (Turlock) HB
1948 — Johnny Olszewski (Long Beach St. Anthony) FB
1947 — Hugh McElhenny (L.A. Washington) FB
1946 — Al Pollard (L.A. Loyola) HB
1945 — Paul Haynes (Pasadena) HB
1944 — Jackie Jensen (Oakland) HB
1943 — Don Burnside (North Sacramento Grant) QB
1942 — Glenn Davis (La Verne Bonita) QB
1941 — Billy Agnew (Piedmont) HB
1940 — Tommy Fears (L.A. Manual Arts) E
1939 — Johnny Petrovich (Alhambra) QB
1938 — Jim Jurkovich (Fresno) FB
1937 — Frankie Albert (Glendale) QB
1936 — Mike Klotovich (San Francisco Mission) HB
1935 — Kenny Washington (L.A. Lincoln) QB
1934 — Doyle Nave (L.A. Manual Arts) HB
1933 — Vic Bottari (Vallejo) QB
1932 — Nello “Flash” Falaschi (San Jose Bellarmine) HB
1931 — Larry Lutz (Santa Ana) T
1930 — Charles “Chili” Bertoli (Berkeley) HB
1929 — Ervin “Cotton” Warburton (San Diego) QB (Jr.)
1928 — Orv Mohler (Alhambra) QB
1927 — Gus Shaver (Covina) HB
1926 — Erny Pinckert (San Bernardino) FB
1925 — Francis Tappaan (Los Angeles) T
Note: List continues back to 1890 in the ESPN RISE Cal-Hi Sports Record Book & Almanac.