With back-to-back CIF Open Division state titles, it may not be much of a surprise that Mater Dei of Santa Ana also now has back-to-back Mr. Football State Players of the Year. Bru McCoy snags it for the 2018 season after former teammate (and now current teammate once again at USC) JT Daniels was more of a slam dunk pick for 2017. Go inside for all the details and to see which was the last school to have back-to-back Mr. Football honorees.
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For a list of our all-time players of the year for juniors, sophomores, medium schools and small schools, CLICK HERE.
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This year’s ultimate individual honor for the California high school football season was clinched much similarly as to how the CIF Open Division state title was clinched for the team at Mater Dei of Santa Ana.
With the Monarchs leading De La Salle of Concord 28-21 and needing to stem the tide of a possible comeback win for the Spartans, one of the nation’s top-ranked college prospects came through with a pair of spectacular catches that eventually sparked Mater Dei to a 35-21 win. The player who made that catch — plus many others in crucial situations — was senior Bru McCoy.
McCoy also has been one of the most versatile players at an elite level in recent Southern California history, including work on the defensive side of the ball. Because of those abilities, he’s now been named as the 2018 Mr. Football State Player of the Year.
This is the second straight year that a Mater Dei player has been selected for this honor, following quarterback JT Daniels for 2017. Daniels was the starting quarterback last season at USC, which is where McCoy is already enrolled for classes and where he publicly declared his commitment last week at the All-America Bowl in Texas on national television.
“What distinguishes it for me is if a player has the ability to take over a game,” said Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson, who has been at the school since 1989. “That’s what they can do. Bru did that in that game against De La Salle and that was something he did countless number of other times.”
McCoy and Daniels become the state’s first back-to-back State Players of the Year since 1970 and 1971 when quarterback Pat Haden was at Bishop Amat of La Puente and was followed the next season by quarterback John Sciarra. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 1918 and 1919 for the duo of running back Roy “Bullett” Baker and end Jim Lawson of Long Beach Poly.
“Those are the type of tidbits I love to hear about,” Rollinson said. “When you hear about things like that, it’s an achievement for the whole program. To have our two guys compared to those players from Bishop Amat who were household names in high school football says a lot about them.”
After Daniels had led Mater Dei to the 2017 CIF state title, he officially reclassified from being a junior to a senior, but was considered a junior throughout the season and is still listed as a junior on the all-time state list. Daniels also had done so much for a team that finished unbeaten that he was not only one of the easiest Mr. Football selections ever but also was a consensus National Player of the Year.
McCoy’s selection was not as clear-cut, mainly because the Monarchs suffered a 41-18 loss in October to league rival St. John Bosco of Bellflower. That meant that the Braves’ junior quarterback, D.J. Uigalelei, was correctly chosen as the Trinity League Player of the Year.
Heading into the Mater Dei-St. John Bosco rematch for the CIF Southern Section Open Division title, it also can be safely said that Uigalelei was in the front-runner position to be Mr. Football for California for 2018. He already had been named as the Gatorade State Player of the Year, which famously doesn’t wait for all games to be played before releasing the name of its winner. In that game, however, Mater Dei’s defense helped cause Uigalelei to only complete six of 19 passes for 115 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Still, because of what he did all season, Uigalelei was strongly considered for the state’s top honor. The other finalists as announced nearly two weeks ago to be Mr. Football for this season were Mater Dei junior quarterback Bryce Young and three record-breaking quarterbacks — Jayden Daniels from Cajon of San Bernardino, Kaiden Bennett of Folsom and Trent Tompkins from Central of Fresno — along with linebacker-running back Henry To’oto’o from De La Salle of Concord.
“The defense can share some of the credit (for McCoy’s honor),” Rollinson said. “We played great on both sides of the ball (in the St. John Bosco win). That was definitely a team win.”
Individually, one of the keys to the season that McCoy had was his willingness to become a more versatile player. For the team to succeed, McCoy was going to have to become a receiver who could line up anywhere, go into motion, even come out of the backfield. He did that and then some. Plus, as much as he showed he could use his unique size and speed to be a disruptive force on defense early in the season, he had to give that up to concentrate on offense.
“He was resentful that he wasn’t used on defense, but that’s what I wanted to see from him because it just showed his competitiveness and that he wanted to make plays no matter what,” Rollinson said. “Of course, he also had an incredible work ethic and natural leadership instincts.”
For the season, Bru finished with 78 catches for 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a receiver. He added five sacks and two caused fumbles on defense, but those were primarily in the first few games. And even though the Monarchs had a lot of games that were over at halftime and even though there have been several all-state caliber receivers on the roster over the last three season, McCoy put up career numbers with 152 catches for 2,605 yards and 34 TDs that are among the best in Orange County history. His 34 TD catches also makes it into the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book.
McCoy caught seven passes for 116 yards and one TD in the win vs. De La Salle. Perhaps his best outing came in a 56-17 CIFSS D1 playoff win vs. Mission Viejo with five catches for 189 yards and two TDs plus a 13-yard scoring run. Even in the one loss to St. John Bosco, McCoy played well personally with nine catches for 114 yards and one TD.
Already named as the L.A. Times Player of the Year and National Player of the Year from one other source (MaxPreps), McCoy can add this other one to his growing list of accolades. Congratulations to him, his family, his school and his teammates.
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):
2018 — Bru McCoy (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) WR
2017 — JT Daniels (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) QB (Jr.)*
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
*Daniels played as a junior during the season and is being listed as a junior for this list. He reclassified to senior status after the season with goal of graduating early.
Note: List continues back to 1890 in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book & Almanac.