In this fourth straight year of domination by the St. John Bosco and Mater Dei football programs in the CIF Open Division (and the entire state), it’s almost had to be the leading player off of the team that wins at the end who has been selected as the Mr. Football State Player of the Year. This time, it’s the quarterback of the Braves, who capped a sensational prep career with two landmark outings in leading them to the title. Yes, a Co-Player of the Year possibility was considered but not for long since ties in rankings or co-players of the year have never been done in the 40 years of statewide honors that we’ve been doing this work.
To see who has been named Cal-Hi Sports State Player of the Year for defense, CLICK HERE.
To see who has been named Cal-Hi Sports State Player of the Year for juniors, sophomores, medium schools and small schools, CLICK HERE.
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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Since the end of the 2018 season, the race for Mr. Football in California for the 2019 season was always going to come down to whichever of the nation’s top two rated quarterbacks — D.J. Uiagalelei of Bellflower St. John Bosco and Bryce Young of Santa Ana Mater Dei — was the one who led their team to the CIF Open Division state championship.
Sure, it could have gotten complicated if neither one had done that, but Uiagalelei took care of that with a memorable performance when the Braves defeated De La Salle of Concord 49-28 to win the state crown and also complete a run to the consensus No. 1 national ranking.
Uiagalelei has thus now been officially named as the winner of the Mr. Football honor for the state. He’s the second from St. John Bosco to receive the nod in the last four years, joining powerful lineman Wyatt Davis off of the Braves’ 2016 championship squad. The school hadn’t ever had a State Player of the Year previous to Davis. The last honoree from the Long Beach/Bellflower region of the state to get the honor before Davis was game-breaking receiver Desean Jackson of Long Beach Poly for 2004.
“Being named Mr.Football for the 2019 season in an incredible honor and tribute to the year D.J. turned in,” said St. John Bosco head coach Jason Negro when informed on Thursday that Uiagalelei had won. “He made a commitment this year to finish and lead our team to a CIF, state and national championship. D.J.’s commitment to our team and our Bosco community is legendary. I love this young man.”
The only other two finalists for the state’s longest-running postseason player of the year award were Young and Corona del Mar of Newport Beach quarterback Ethan Garbers. While Garbers had 71 touchdown passes for a team that went 16-0 and won the CIF Division 1-A state title, it’s mostly always been a race between Young and Uiagalelei.
The two quarterbacks have shown great respect for each other and it has been Young who has so far won a bulk of the major honors. In retrospect, maybe it should have been Young who should have been ahead of Uiagalelei after last season when Mater Dei won its second straight state title, but the Monarchs’ No. 1 player off that team (as selected by many others both locally and nationally) was wide receiver Bru McCoy. Uiagalelei was Bosco’s No. 1 player, Young was Mater Dei’s No. 2 player and McCoy was Mr. Football.
In the two years since Young transferred from Cathedral of Los Angeles, the Braves and Monarchs played four times with each team winning twice. This year, it certainly can be argued that despite Mater Dei losing in the second game to the Braves that Young had the more impressive overall season with 58 TD passes and 4,528 yards. The established precedence in the many years of Cal-Hi Sports postseason honors, however, is to go more by what happens in the final games so it’s just following that guide that puts Uiagalelei first.
One national honor from MaxPreps already has announced Uiagalelei and Young as National Co-Players of the Year and it wouldn’t be a shock if the CIF Southern Section Division I selection does the same (those teams have not even been selected yet). Look over the list of the more than 100 years of state players of the year, however, and you won’t see a shared listing for any year. It’s always been the mantra for us that there are no ties for a team’s ranking or for a player of the year or coach of the year or anything. Do the digging, do the research, pick one, and then live with the result.
Two magical moments stand out in watching Uiagalelei’s last game wearing a Braves’ uniform. One was when De La Salle’s Charles McAdoo came blitzing in on an outside rush and had a clear shot to bring down the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder. McAdoo bounced off of Uigalelei almost like he had run into a brick wall. Another was when D.J. dropped back for a deep pass to junior teammate Beaux Collins from near the 20-yard line. The ball soared majestically into the night and landed squarely into Collins’ hands for a crucial 71-yard touchdown.
D.J. finished that night by going 24 of 29 passing for 410 yards and four TDs. He also rushed five times for 67 yards an another score. Those are not totals one sees going up against De La Salle. It’s also not what the Mater Dei defense gives up, but in the CIFSS final when Uigalelei rallied the Braves from a 28-5 deficit to a 39-34 victory he passed for 446 yards and five TDs (on 26 of 38 attempts).
“What D.J. did (against Mater Dei) was literally take over the game,” Negro said during an interview in December when he was named State Coach of the Year and State Coach of the Decade. “For him to storm back that night was when he became a much more vocal leader. It turned into his most epic performance.”
For the last two seasons each, Uiagalelei passed for 48 touchdowns. He didn’t have as many yards this season as last season (3,336 compared to 4,225), but still went well past the 10,000-yard mark for his career (10,496). Despite not becoming the starter as a sophomore until Bosco’s first league game, D.J. also ended his career with 127 TD passes. He currently ranks No. 11 on the all-time state list for career yards and is tied for 12th for career TDs.
D.J., who does have a love of baseball, has played baseball for the Braves and may yet still play in college, will remain connected to the Bosco program moving forward not just because of being a proud alum, but he has a freshman brother, Matayo, who is a 6-foot-5, 221-pound tight end/defensive end. Matayo is his only sibling and already is getting major Division I college offers.
Since the end of the season, it’s remained busy for Uiagalelei. The day after Christmas he traveled to Glendale, Ariz., with Negro and Bosco teammate linebacker Kourt Williams for the Clemson-Ohio State national semifinal. Williams is a Buckeye recruit so the two no doubt exchanged a lot of nervous looks during the contest (won by Clemson in comeback fashion).
Then after that game, the pair went to the All-American Bowl in San Antonio where D.J. reportedly volunteered to be on the East team so he and Young could oppose each other. Young, who will play next at Alabama, ended up MVP for the game (which never has been part of the criteria for a California high school honor).
Uiagalelei’s eastward trek resumed after that game since he headed straight for South Carolina to report to his new school. He even got to practice with the Tigers leading into their national title game that was played earlier this week, supposedly pretending to be LSU quarterback Joe Burrow.
“Man, his arm strength is at another level,” Clemson quarterback coach Brandon Streeter recently told sportswriter Bruce Feldman. “It’s the best arm strength that I’ve ever seen. Now, it’s just a matter of refining the accuracy & that will come. He’s a perfect fit for our culture.”
Who knows, maybe in a couple of years, it’ll be some other big-time incoming recruit at some other college being asked to pretend to be D.J. Uiagalelei. With the power, size and abilities that he has, though, such an impersonation may be impossible.
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):
2019 — DJ Uiagalelei
(St. John Bosco, Bellflower) QB
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.