Bryce Young’s success in helping quarterback Santa Ana Mater Dei to a mythical national championship last season might not be his No. 1 achievement when his high school football career is completed this fall.
There’s a far more compelling social and historic accomplishment he pulled off: Being the first African American starting quarterback at Mater Dei, which was founded in 1950.
“For me and our family, we thought of it as an honor,” Young said recently while sitting beside his father, Craig, during a 45-minute interview while eating a beef dip sandwich at Philippe’s not far from his former high school, L.A. Cathedral.
Longtime Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said Young’s skin color “never crossed my mind,” but Craig Young recognizes what it means for his son to be playing quarterback for the Monarchs.
“Even though the numbers are dwindling, there’s still are a lot of people that have certain assumptions and prejudices about African American quarterbacks,” he said. “The fact he was the first and did so well, I do think that will be impactful.”
The Youngs did not pick Mater Dei to make a social statement. They wanted Young to have the challenge of playing with and against the best.
“The reason we sent him to Mater Dei had nothing to do with race,” Craig said. “It was more about getting him to step up in competition and being coached by a great coaching staff and putting himself in position to play in big games.”
The African American angle was broached on social media, the Youngs said.
“When you come into a different situation, a lot of people like to project their fears onto you,” Young’s father said. “There was fears. The fact he was the first, would he be treated fairly? Would there be any racial issues? It never deterred us as a family because we don’t operate in fear.”
Said Young: “There hasn’t been any issue. It’s cool. It definitely holds a certain weight being the first African American quarterback at Mater Dei.”
More scrutiny was directed toward Young when he replaced JT Daniels, who left Mater Dei a year early to enroll at USC following a junior season in which he was selected the national high school player of the year. For much of last spring, summer and fall, Young constantly was compared to Daniels. The Youngs remember Rollinson telling the crowd during a rally celebrating the Monarchs’ 2017 state championship, “JT Daniels is the best quarterback I’ve ever coached.”
Young’s father said he was thinking, “Why are we coming here? Wow, this is a tall order.”
Young had already followed Daniels in youth football with a national championship for the IE Ducks. Young’s father said he now talks several times a week with Daniels’ father, Steve.
“For me, it was about stepping up,” said Young, who is 5 foot 11 and 182 pounds.
He’s part of a strong collection of quarterbacks in Southern California who could have bright futures at the next level. Among the most decorated are Clemson-bound DJ Uiagalelei of Bellflower St. John Bosco, Washington-bound Ethan Garbers of Corona del Mar, Fresno State-bound Jaden Casey of Calabasas, rising senior CJ Stroud of Rancho Cucamonga and Duke-bound Luca Diamont of Venice.
Young passed for 3,846 yards and 39 touchdowns last season while leading the Monarchs to a 13-2 record, including victories over St. John Bosco and Concord De La Salle in the Southern Section Division 1 championship game and CIF Open Division state championship bowl game.
Most of all, he made a believer of Rollinson, a 1967 Mater Dei graduate and head coach since 1989.
“The success he had last year was phenomenal,” Rollinson said. “What he did in helping us win the national championship he showed me everything — the mental ability, the audiblization . . . now he’s settled in. We’re excited what he’s bringing to the table.”
Young has a precise, strong arm combined with a keen intellect. His demeanor is so calm and confident that it’s hard to tell whether he’s feeling good or bad. It’s something he learned from his father while in middle school.
“When I was younger, I was a lot more emotional and realized how much that affected me,” Young said. “I’m definitely relaxed and calm on the inside, but it’s not from a lack of caring. Or lack of competitiveness. I realize that’s how I perform the best.”
Committed to USC, where he’ll join Daniels, Young is scheduled to graduate in January so he can arrive in time for the Trojans’ spring football practices. He’s looking forward to his senior season, feeling more comfortable in running the Monarchs’ offense while also being given additional responsibilities.
“We’ve given him the keys to the race car,” Rollinson said.
TOP QUARTERBACKS IN THE SOUTHLAND
Player, School | Ht. | Wt. | Yr. | Comment
Jaden Casey, Calabasas | 6-1 | 190 | Sr. | Fresno State commit passed for 3,161 yards, 38 TDs
Peter Costelli, Mission Viejo | 6-3 | 205 | Jr. | With 10.8 100 speed, Costelli is unique
Luca Diamont, Venice | 6-2 | 190 | Sr. | Duke commit had 26 TD passes
AJ Duffy, Rancho Verde | 6-1 | 195 | So. | 40 TD passes as a freshman
Jake Garcia, Narbonne | 6-3 | 175 | Jr. | Has become national recruit
Ethan Garbers, Corona del Mar; | 6-3 | 190 | Sr. | Washington commit passed for 4,135 yards, 55 TDs
Miller Moss, Alemany | 6-2 | 200 | Jr. | Made major jump during summer
CJ Stroud, Rancho Cucamonga | 6-2 |195 | Sr. | Accurate arm with strong fundamentals
DJ Uiagalelei, St. John Bosco | 6-4 | 245 | Sr. | Clemson commit trying to lead team to championship
Bryce Young, Mater Dei | 5-11 | 182 | Sr. | USC commit has improved arm strength
WR John Humphreys, Corona del Mar
OL AJ Vaipulu, Corona Centennial
TE Jake Overman, Servite
RB Anthony Spearman III, Notre Dame
DL Jordan Berry, Narbonne
LB Mister Williams, Oaks Christian
DB Mason White, Birmingham
K Josh Bryan, Sierra Canyon