In the strangest season in state history, it still reverts to some normalcy for the annual Mr. Football State Player of the Year honor. The winner is Mater Dei of Santa Ana defensive standout Raesjon Davis, who is the third Mr. Football honoree from the school in the last four years. With seniors from the Class of 2021 going through a final school year that has been so difficult with the COVID-19 pandemic, it just about had to be that a senior gets this year’s leading individual football selection in the state.
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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We’ll never know what a lot of the leading players from California’s Class of 2021 might have done in a normal, fall football season.
Quarterback Tyler Buchner, the 2019 State Junior of the Year, might have thrown for 5,000 yards, rushed for 1,000 yards and led Helix of La Mesa to a CIF state title. Others like No. 1 national recruit Korey Foreman of Corona Centennial or 2018 State Sophomore of the Year Troy Franklin (Menlo-Atherton) also may have done some amazing things as a defensive end and wide receiver/defensive back, respectively.
While none of those players didn’t play this spring, we do know what Raesjon Davis did during an exemplary career and season at Mater Dei of Santa Ana. That’s why he’s the 2021 (Spring) Mr. Football State Player of the Year as announced today by Cal-Hi Sports. At some point in state record keeping, this year’s spring football honorees may be listed as from a long-delayed 2020 season. For now, though, it’s 2021 Spring.
This is the third time in the last four seasons that a Mater Dei player has gained the Mr. Football State POY honor. Davis follows WR/DE Bru McCoy for 2018 and QB J.T. Daniels for 2017. The only other Mr. Football winner from the school has been WR/DB Rod Perry for 1996.
While this year’s Monarchs also were No. 1 in the state like the two that McCoy and Daniels starred on they weren’t able to win a CIF Open Division state title. They did get past St. John Bosco of Bellflower when those two super powers met on the field last month, 34-17, in a game in which Davis helped set the tone early with a bone-crackling tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
Legendary Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson praised Davis as a player who definitely ranks alongside some of the great players that he’s coached there since 1989.
“He’s just a physical freak,” Rollinson said when he called two weeks ago after the Monarchs were named State Team of the Year. “He’s such a great kid, too.”
“It feels great to be rewarded for hard work,” Davis said in a text. “Thank you to Cal-Hi Sports for awarding me with the Mr. Football in California.”
If one just looked at Davis’ stats in this short, five-game season, being named State Player of the Year might not come to mind. But as Rollinson pointed out the 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker was the leader according to a defensive points system that longtime defensive coordinator Eric Johnson uses to evaluate players. “He made an impact in every game we played,” Rollinson said.
Before gaining the Mr. Football nod, Davis already has been named MVP of the Trinity League and Defensive Player of the Year by the Orange County Register. Among his defensive highlights of the season was an interception return TD, a 34-yard fumble return, and four tackles for loss.
It’s making an impact for three seasons, however, that probably gave Davis the biggest edge among others who also were considered for Mr. Football. We would say that that list included sophomores Matayo Uiagalelei from St. John Bosco (WR/DE) and Malachi Nelson (QB) of Los Alamitos along with seniors Jaylen Henderson (QB) of West Hills Chaminade and D.J. Harvey (WR/DB) of Chatsworth Sierra Canyon.
After being brought up to the playoffs as a freshman on Mater Dei’s 2017 national championship team, Davis made a huge impact on the Monarchs’ 2018 squad. He became a starting linebacker midway through that season and because of his impact the coaches were able to use the multi-talented Bru McCoy much more exclusively on offense instead of needing him on defense.
When the Monarchs of 2018 avenged their only loss with a 17-13 victory over St. John Bosco in the CIF Southern Section D1 final, Davis had six tackles, one sack, one interception and one caused fumble. Then in the 2018 CIF Open Division state final, a 35-21 win over De La Salle of Concord, Davis came through with seven tackles and two sacks.
As a junior in the 2019 season, when Mater Dei beat Bosco in the regular season but lost to the Braves in the CIFSS finals, Davis had 16.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, one interception and three caused fumbles.
After the sophomore season that he had, Raesjon was routinely ranked as among the top Class of 2021 national recruits. He received numerous major college offers and eventually committed to LSU. He had been considered an LSU commit until just last December when he de-committed from the Tigers and then in March he went with USC. The last two Mr. Football winners from Mater Dei also went to USC, although Daniels has since transferred to the University of Georgia.
In looking over the consensus list of top 20 recruits from the state from the Class of 2021, a majority of them either had already graduated early or decided that they were not going to play this spring for their high schools in order to concentrate on college.
Davis is the highest-ranked of those players who did play this spring and it appeared it wasn’t that hard of a decision.
“It was an honor and a blessing to be able to come back and play my senior year even with all of the doubt,” he said. “I would like to thank God and my family for all the support and helping me get through everything so far.”
Davis had this to say to the Orange County Register: “Being a leader is something my dad (Rashad) always taught me to try to be,” Davis recently told the Orange County Register. “I’m going to miss it (here). I know I’m going to have a little bit of tears when I leave, but I know I’ll be happy at ‘SC, too.”
We just hope he is just a little bit more happy about it knowing he’s the California Mr. Football State Player of the Year.
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):
2021 — Raesjon Davis (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) LB
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, SD) 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) 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.