State Defensive POY: Justin Flowe

Regarded as the best linebacker in the nation and one of the best in California for the past 20 years, Upland’s Justin Flowe adds top defensive honors for the state to his growing list of honors, including the Butkus Award that is given to the nation’s most outstanding linebacker.

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When we’ve already named a player to an all-decade all-state team and then do a defensive player of the year selection later on, that makes it a rather easy honor to decide. That’s why it only took a few seconds to land on Upland linebacker Justin Flowe to be the 2019 State Defensive Player of the Year.

Justin Flowe has been the most highly regarded linebacker from California nationally since D.J. Williams was playing at De La Salle of Concord from 1999 or Vontaze Burfict of Corona Centennial from 2008. Photo:

Flowe is a player who has been on the radar screens of major colleges for several years. We unfortunately never got to see him in a game in person, but on film he goes sideline-to-sideline with a ferocity that jumps off the screen. One who has sen Justin play several times is our former Student Sports colleague and current Fox Sports TV commentator Greg Biggins.

“The only other linebacker I’ve seen who was better was D.J. Williams of De La Salle,” Biggins said of the 1999 Mr. Football State Player of the Year. The 247/Scout recruiting analyst also was quick to clarify that his list would include former Corona Centennial linebacker Vontaze Burfict of the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders.

It’s praise such as that, plus what he did on the field the last three seasons for the Highlanders, that was enough in include Flowe as one of just 11 defenders on the All-Decade All-State Team that was announced just before New Year’s. The only others on first team from the 2019 season were D.J. Uigalelei and Bryce Young.

Also going by the nickname Baby Man, Justin was a huge force as a junior with 145 tackles for an Upland team that won the CIF Southern Section Division 2 title (later losing to Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth in the D1-A SoCal regional final). As a senior, Flowe racked up 123 tackles in one less game. He also had 10 sacks, eight other tackles for loss, five caused fumbles, two blocked kicks and one interception.

In addition to his more than 300 career tackles, two other career stats stand out for Flowe: 10 fumbles caused and five blocked kicks.

Flowe was one of the nation’s top uncommitted players during the season, which led to a lot of nervous college football fans in early December before the early signing day. Flowe eventually picked Oregon where he’ll join 2017 State Defensive Player of the Year Kayvon Thibodeaux, in what potentially could be a nasty Duck defense the next two seasons.

Next season, Flowe’s spot as the dominant defender for Upland also should remain in the family. His younger brother, Jonathan, is one of the top junior linebackers in the state as well. Whether he’ll be able to approach the lofty praise and tackling prowess of Justin remains to be seen.


Vontaze Burfict was a dominating linebacker at Corona Centennial. Photo:

2019 – Justin Flowe (Upland) LB
2018 – Henry To’oto’o (De La Salle, Concord) LB
2017 – Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village) DL (Jr.)
2016 – Jaelen Phillips (Redlands East Valley, Redlands) DL
2015 – Oluwole Betiku (Serra, Gardena) DL
2014 – Iman Marshall (Long Beach Poly, Long Beach) DB
2013 – Adoree Jackson (Serra, Gardena) DB
2012 – Michael Hutchings (De La Salle, Concord) LB
2011 – Michael Barton (De La Salle, Concord) LB
2010 – Viliami Moala (Grant, Sacramento) NG
2009 – Viliami Moala (Grant, Sacramento) NG (Jr.)
2008 – Vontaze Burfict (Centennial, Corona) LB
2007 – Jurrell Casey (Long Beach Poly, Long Beach) DL
2006 – Chris Galippo (Servite, Anaheim) LB
2005 – Darian Hagan Jr. (Crenshaw, Los Angeles) CB
2004 – Luthur Brown (Lakewood) LB
2003 – Brigham Harwell (Los Altos, Hacienda Heights) DT
2002 – Lawrence Jackson (Inglewood) DE
2001 – Derek Landri (De La Salle, Concord) DT
2000 – Kevin Simon (De La Salle, Concord) LB
1999 – D.J. Williams (De La Salle, Concord) LB
1998 – D.J. Williams (De La Salle, Concord) LB (Jr.)
1997 – Robert Thomas (Imperial) LB
1996 – Andre Carter (Oak Grove, San Jose) DE
1995 – Chris Claiborne (J.W. North, Riverside) LB
1994 – Clyde Sanders (Grant, Sacramento) DE
1993 – Darrell Russell (St. Augustine, San Diego) DT
1992 – Travis Kirschke (Esperanza, Anaheim) DT
1991 – LeRoi Glover (Point Loma, San Diego) DT
1990 – Jamir Miller (El Cerrito) LB
1989 – Willie McGinest (Long Beach Poly, Long Beach) DE
1988 – Tommie Smith (Antelope Valley, Lancaster) DB
1987 – Arnold Ale (Carson) LB
1986 – Scott Ross (El Toro) LB
1985 – Randy Austin (Canyon, Canyon Country) LB
1984 – Mark Green (Poly, Riverside) DB
1983 – Chance Johnson (Compton) DB
1982 – Tim McDonald (Edison, Fresno) DB
1981 – George Ebertin (Bellarmine, San Jose) LB
1980 – Jack Del Rio (Hayward) LB
1979 — Darrell Hooper (Carson) DB
1978 — Michael Richardson (Compton) DB
1977 — Chuck Willig (St. Paul, Santa Fe Springs) DB
1976 – Dennis Smith (Santa Monica) DB
1975 — John Van Buren (South Hills, Covina) DB
1974 — Jerry Robinson (Cardinal Newman, Santa Rosa) NG
1973 — Frank Manumaluena (Banning, Wilmington) LB
1972 — Lonnie Shelton (Foothill, Bakersfield) DL
1971 — Paul Kinne (Paso Robles) DB

1970 — Fred McNeill (Baldwin Park) LB
1969 — Artimus Parker (Sacramento) LB
1968 — Willie Buchanon (Oceanside) DB

1967 — Jeff Siemon (Bakersfield) LB

1966 — Mel Gray (Montgomery, Santa Rosa) DB
1965 — John Albanese (Bellarmine, San Jose) LB
1964 — George Buehler (Whittier) LB

1963 — Tim Rossovich (St. Francis, Mountain View) LB
1962 — George Wilfert (Bellarmine, San Jose) DL
1961 — Ted Norlund (Lowell, San Francisco) DL
1960 — Rich Koeper (Sequoia, Redwood City) DL

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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