There has been a Cal-Hi Sports all-state first team after every California high school football season since 1980. There also has been at least a second team added on since 1986. Here is an honor roll of the best players from Southern California starting from the first all-state team until the one done last June.
Note: This is a list of players who were either first team or second team all-state selections. It is not a list of all-time best players since not all of them were chosen that high when they were in high school for various reasons. What players did after high school was used to differentiate just among those who were on the various all-state teams. For this feature, the CIF Central Section also was considered for Northern California. For players who were all-state more than once, they are shown with the year of their senior season. For the NorCal version of these same lists, CLICK HERE.
ALL-STATE FOOTBALL PATCHES: We have been proud to partner with BillyTees.com to provide all-state football patches after the 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021 Spring seasons. Anyone who was all-state first team, second team, third team, juniors, sophomores, medium schools or small schools should be considered okay to order an all-state patch. Every patch also comes with a certificate of authentication. Ordering a patch helps Cal-Hi Sports to continue to present all of these teams in all of the sports we follow (football, boys hoops, girls hoops, baseball, softball).
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT END
Curtis Conway (Hawthorne) 1988*
Tony Gonzalez (Huntington Beach) 1993*
DeSean Jackson (Long Beach Poly) 2004
Keyshawn Johnson (Dorsey, Los Angeles) 1990
Marvin Jones (Etiwanda) 2007
Marcedes Lewis (Long Beach Poly) 2001
Rod Perry (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 1996
Michael Pittman (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village) 2015
Darnay Scott (Kearny, San Diego) 1990*
John Smith (Long Beach Poly) 2014
Steve Smith (Taft, Woodland Hills) 2002
Amon-Ra St. Brown (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 2018
Kenny Stills (La Costa Canyon, Carlsbad) 2009
Mike Thomas (Taft, Woodland Hills) 2010
Robert Woods (Serra, Gardena) 2009
*Chosen all-state as Multi-Purpose.
Notes: John Smith’s nickname of “JuJu” began to be used more commonly later in his junior season at Poly in 2013. Everyone knows him now as JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Robert Woods and DeSean Jackson are now teammates with their hometown Los Angeles Rams and both have scored touchdowns already this season. The Steve Smith who played at Taft, set numerous state receiving records and was first team all-state three times, is not the same Steve Smith from University of Los Angeles. The other Steve Smith was not a high school standout, went to JC and became a great player in college and pros. In fact, there’s little doubt that the other Steve Smith will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Taft’s Steve Smith didn’t have an NFL career like the other Steve Smith, but he played for one of the New York Giants’ Super Bowl teams (XLII), he had a Pro Bowl season in 2009 and he had 245 career receptions in six seasons.
Sam Baker (Tustin) 2002
Kenyon Coleman (Alta Loma) 1996
Wyatt Davis (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 2016
Winston Justice (Long Beach Poly) 2001
Matt Kalil (Servite, Anaheim) 2007
Lincoln Kennedy (Morse, San Diego) 1987
Brian Schwenke (Oceanside) 2008
Tyron Smith (Rancho Verde, Moreno Valley) 2007
Bob Whitfield (Banning, Wilmington) 1988
Notes: Matt Kalil’s brother, Ryan, is another great NFL offensive lineman from Servite and he was very good in high school as well. He just wasn’t on an all-state team, however. Tyron Smith is currently wrapping up a possible Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys. He had one of the great combine stories ever, and especially during all of the years when we were helping to put them on as part of Student Sports/ESPN. Tyron wasn’t a well-known recruit when he came to the SoCal Nike camp at USC in the spring of 2007, but simply blew up in all of the drills and one-on-one battles. He had offers from everywhere the following week and eventually signed with the Trojans.
Kyle Boller (Hart, Newhall) 1998
J.T. Daniels (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 2017
Bret Johnson (El Toro, Lake Forest) 1987
Rob Johnson (El Toro, Lake Forest) 1990*
Matt Leinart (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 2000
Todd Marinovich (Capistrano Valley, Mission Viejo) 1987
Tanner McKee (Centennial, Corona) 2018
Carson Palmer (Santa Margarita, Rancho SM) 1997
Josh Rosen (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 2014
Mark Sanchez (Mission Viejo) 2004
D.J. Uiagalelei (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) 2019
Bryce Young (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) 2019
*Chosen at multi-purpose.
Notes: Four of the top QBs from SoCal who’ve been all-state first team over the last 40 years were all tutored by former Mission Viejo and El Toro head coach Bob Johnson. Coach Johnson not only guided his two sons, Bret and Rob, but also developed both Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez. Bob Johnson retired with 342 wins in 2017, which is third-most in state history. Carson Palmer was a Heisman Trophy winner, along with Matt Leinart, and those two could be joined this December by Bryce Young (currently leading Alabama). We also think Carson Palmer has the career statistics in the NFL that should get him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Michael Alo (Banning, Wilmington) 1980
Eric Bieniemy (Bishop Amat, La Puente) 1986
Reggie Bush (Helix, La Mesa) 2002
Tyler Ebell (Ventura) 2000
DeShaun Foster (Tustin) 1997
Toby Gerhart (Norco) 2005
Napoleon Kaufman (Lompoc) 1990
Ron Rivers (San Gorgonio, San Bernardino) 1989
J.J. Taylor (Centennial, Corona) 2015
Russell White (Crespi, Encino) 1988
Ricky Williams (Patrick Henry, San Diego) 1994
Notes: Russell White was not only on the all-state team in 1986 as a sophomore, but he also was the State Player of the Year. We got to know him better when he was the CIF Oakland Section commissioner several years ago. Ricky Williams and Reggie Bush were Heisman Trophy winners at Texas & USC, respectively, although Reggie’s honor was officially removed from the records due to some NCAA financial rules infractions. As mentioned in the NorCal version of this feature, Ron Rivers and son Ronnie (now breaking records at Fresno State) have to go down as one of the state’s best-ever father-son RB duos. Tyler Ebell doesn’t have NFL accomplishments of many on this list, but did well at UCLA and his national record total of 4,495 yards in 2000 at Ventura was just so insane. It was more than 1,000 yards higher than the previous state record.
Dennis Brown (Jordan, Long Beach) 1985
Jurrell Casey (Long Beach Poly) 2007
Kenny Clark (Carter, Rialto) 2013
Shaun Cody (Los Altos, Hacienda Heights) 2000
Na’il Diggs (Dorsey, Los Angeles) 1995
LeRoi Glover (Point Loma, San Diego) 1991
Rasheem Green (Serra, Gardena) 2014
Malik Jackson (Taft, Woodland Hills) 2007
Datone Jones (Compton) 2007
Travis Kirschke (Esperanza, Anaheim) 1992
Willie McGinest (Long Beach Poly) 1989
Brandon Mebane (Crenshaw, Los Angeles) 2002
Nick Reed (Mission Viejo) 2004
Darrell Russell (St. Augustine, San Diego) 1993
Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village) 2018
Manuel Wright (Long Beach Poly) 2001
Notes: Still one of the best pass-rushing high school defensive ends we’ve ever seen has been Willie McGinest when he was at Long Beach Poly. He’s well-known now of course for his NFL Network appearances and for being one of the top LBs in New England Patriots history. Later in 1990, we picked up Willie at his house and took him to a photo shoot in Laguna Beach for our magazine (which was Cal-Hi Sports before it was renamed Student Sports) where he participated in some shots with Junior Seau of USC (only a few days before Junior was drafted by the Chargers). He didn’t know at the time how NFL players got paid. LB Poly’s Jurrell Casey recently retired from an impressive NFL career, but a couple of the guys above (Kenny Clark of the Packers, Malik Jackson of the Browns and Rasheem Green of the Seahawks) are still among the best DLs in the league.
Arnold Ale (Carson) 1987
Vontaze Burfict (Centennial, Corona) 2008
Brandon Chillar (Carlsbad) 1999
Chris Claiborne (J.W. North, Riverside) 1995
Justin Flowe (Upland) 2019
Tony Jefferson (Eastlake, Chula Vista) 2009
Ken Norton Jr. (Westchester, Los Angeles) 1983
Junior Seau (Oceanside) 1986*
Robert Thomas (Imperial) 1997
Treyvone Towns (Pasadena) 1992
*Chosen all-state as a TE.
Notes: We’d probably rank Vontaze Burfict as still the best LB we’ve ever seen from a SoCal school. He was the top player on the only Centennial team that has won a CIF state title and also has been State Team of the Year. It’s a shame his NFL career was derailed by all of the late hits penalties and suspensions. One of the other LBs on all-state first team in 1997 was current De La Salle of Concord head coach Justin Alumbaugh. And speaking of head coaches, Chris Claiborne was in that role for a couple of seasons recently at Calabasas. The 1995 Mr. Football State Player of the Year (he also played running back) left Calabasas after the 2019 season to take a job on the staff at USC.
Nnamdi Asumugha (Narbonne, Harbor City) 1998
Stais Boseman (Morningside, Inglewood) 1991
Eugene Burkhalter (Long Beach Poly) 1986
Mark Carrier (Long Beach Poly) 1985
Darnay Holmes (Calabasas) 2017
Marqise Lee (Serra, Gardena) 2010
David Long (Loyola, Los Angeles) 2016
Iman Marshall (Long Beach Poly) 2014
Eric Turner (Ventura) 1985
James Washington (Jordan, Los Angeles) 1982
Matt Ware (Loyola, Los Angeles) 2000
Bryant Westbrook (El Camino, Oceanside) 1992
Notes: When Nnamdi Asumugha was coming up in the late 1990s (he also went to Leuzinger of Lawndale & Bishop Montgomery of Torrance), one of the first scouts/analysts to recommend him as a top-flight prospect was Greg Biggins when he also was first getting into that type of work as a colleague of ours at Student Sports & Cal-Hi Sports. Asumugha went on to play at Cal and then in the NFL (mostly for the Oakland Raiders). He was considered one of the top DBs in the NFL for the 2010s and is now acting/directing and producing in Hollywood with his wife, actress Kerry Washington. Biggins is now one of the top recruiting analysts in the nation and serves as a commentator for FOX Sports/Bally Sports. Marqise Lee later played in the NFL as a receiver, but was on the all-state team at Serra for defense.
Kai Forbath (Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks) 2005
Chris Sailer (Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks) 1994
Jason Sanders (Villa Park) 2013*
Luis Zendejas (Don Lugo, Chino) 1980
*Currently one of the top kickers in the NFL (Miami Dolphins), Sanders was a junior in 2013 and was all-state as a punter.
Sal Aunese (Vista) QB/RB 1985
Jim Bonds (Hart, Newhall) QB/RB/DB 1986
Jayden Daniels (Cajon, San Bernardino) QB/RB 2018
Matt Grootegoed (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) RB/DB 1999
Darian Hagan (Locke, Los Angeles) QB/RB 1987
Jamelle Holieway (Banning, Wilmington) QB/RB 1984
Adoree’ Jackson (Serra, Gardena) 2014
Taylor Martinez (Centennial, Corona) QB/RB 2008
Daylon McCutcheon (Bishop Amat, La Puente) RB/DB 1994
John Ross (Jordan, Long Beach) WR/KR 2012
Sione Takitaki (Heritage, Menifee) DL/FB 2014
De’Anthony Thomas (Crenshaw, Los Angeles) RB/DB 2010
Notes: Two of those above, Darian Hagan and Jamelle Holieway, are two option QBs who went from SoCal high schools to leading their college teams at Colorado and Oklahoma to national titles. Sal Aunese of Vista led the Buffs as an option QB earlier than Hagan. He died of stomach cancer at just 21 years old in September of 1989. Jim Bonds didn’t do anything like that at UCLA, but he was a multi-sport athlete in college (baseball) and he was all-state multi-purpose. Bonds later became the head coach for 21 years at St. Francis (La Canada) where the field there was just named in his honor. Jim died in October of 2020 at age 51 (also from cancer).
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: