Football preview: Birmingham DB Mason White talented beyond his years

Birmingham defensive back Mason White begins his senior season as a 16-year-old.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

There’s a foreign substance growing under Mason White’s chin. Call it tiny whiskers. It’s taken him until his senior year of high school to finally detect a sign he might be able to one day have a beard. He needs something to change the conversation about his age.

In the fall of 2016 when he arrived as a freshman at Lake Balboa Birmingham High, coach Jim Rose was shocked to learn White was 13 years old in an era of 14-, 15- and 16-year-old freshmen. You can’t play varsity football until you’re 14, so White played on the freshman-sophomore team that year waiting patiently until he turned 14 on Nov. 11.

He was expecting to make his varsity debut in a playoff game against San Pedro. But his birthday fell on Veterans Day. School would be closed and the game played the night before.

“I remember all the players were laughing and surprised that I couldn’t play,” White said. His coach sought a waiver from the City Section. The game was on a Thursday night and at midnight, White would turn 14. Why not let him play?


The waiver was rejected. White traveled with the team and stood on the sideline unable to help his teammates in a 49-0 loss. He hasn’t come off the football field since, starting as a 14-year-old sophomore and 15-year-old junior at receiver and cornerback.

College recruiters who come by the school still can’t believe his age.

“There’s no regrets,” White said. “It’s cool. Everything is fine.”

White is showing signs he’s maturing physically, and opponents better beware. He has reached 6 feet 1 and 165 pounds, with improving speed, strength and increased confidence. He can be a big-play weapon on offense or a big-time tackler on defense. On special teams, he has 11 blocked kicks over the last two seasons. Rose’s quandary is deciding whether White should be allowed to return punts or block punts.

Even though there will be juniors on Birmingham’s team older than White, he has long ago adjusted. Remember as a 13-year-old, he was practicing against 18- and 19-year-olds.

“I didn’t think of it any differently because I’m used to it,” he said.

Last season, his versatility helped the Patriots go 9-3. He rushed for 391 yards and scored eight touchdowns. He caught 39 passes for 687 yards and four touchdowns. He made 53 tackles and had five interceptions. Rose told a reporter back in 2016 that the 13-year-old White would be a Division I college football player.

“I was right,” Rose said.

A look at some of the top high school football players at each position in the Southland for the upcoming 2019 season.

Aug. 15, 2019


Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State are among the schools intrigued by White’s potential.

“He keeps getting better,” Rose said. “He still hasn’t filled out bodywise. He’ll put on 25 pounds. He could grow another inch. He’s got great ball skills and a good football IQ. He’s got great closing speed.”

There’s no doubt White is poised to have his best season yet with so much more to offer in the future.

“I know all the mistakes I’ve made the past few years in football and now I know what to do,” he said.

Top defensive backs

Players, School | Ht. | Wt. | Yr. | Comment


Jaylin Davies, Mater Dei | 6-0 | 165 | Jr. | Leads best secondary in SoCal

Makell Esteen, Lawndale | 6-2 | 178 | Sr. | Washington commit has 19 interceptions in three years

John Humphrey, Muir | 6-2 | 175 | Sr. | Committed to UCLA

Brandon Jones, Narbonne | 5-10 | 175 | Sr. | Stanford commit

Jake Newman, St. John Bosco | 6-1 | 200 | Sr. | UCLA commit is key tackler in secondary

Clark Phillips, La Habra | 5-11 | 178 | Sr. | Ohio State commit always makes impact

RJ Regan, Orange Lutheran | 6- | 175 | Jr. | Has become a national recruit

Semaj Verner, Mayfair | 6-3 | 190 | Sr. | Ready for big season

Mason White, Birmingham | 6-1 | 165 | Sr. | Set for best season yet

Ceyair Wright, Loyola | 6-0 | 165 | Jr. | Ran a 10.89 100 meters during track season