L.A. Times high school football player of the year: Mason Graham
This story is part of our L.A. Times 2021 fall All-Star football team coverage. Read the full series here.
There was one character trait almost everyone used to describe two-way line starter Mason Graham of Anaheim Servite this season: relentless.
Whether he was chasing down quarterbacks as a defensive lineman (he had 14 sacks) or protecting his own quarterback as an offensive tackle, Graham somehow found a way to have the stamina and fortitude to never take plays off. Maybe it was from his own conditioning. Maybe it was from being a heavyweight wrestler. Maybe it was from a desire to prove he could play with the best.
“The guy made huge plays in every game,” coach Troy Thomas said. “He’s the best lineman I’ve ever coached and might be the best player. We’ll see how it ends up. He’s special.”
For a season in which Graham achieved one big performance after another against the best opponents in California, he has been selected The Times’ player of the year in high school football.
At 6 feet 4 and 295 pounds, and set to enroll at Michigan next month, Graham used his four years of high school to change his body and change the perception of how good a football player he could become.
“He worked really hard and played multiple sports,” Thomas said. “Wrestling helped him tremendously. He played basketball as a freshman. Then he did rugby. He bought into lifting. He’s a great athlete who worked hard. And he grew. He was a linebacker when he came in. He’s a different body now.”
This season, he played two games against Santa Ana Mater Dei and two games against Bellflower St. John Bosco, two of the best teams in the nation. He never was average. He was always exceptional.
“Our league is the hardest league,” Graham said. “It’s just preparing me once I get to college and become a one-way player being ready to play.”
As an offensive tackle, he was so effective that he helped open up the Friars’ offense for the run and pass. “He was a huge part of us being able to run the ball,” Thomas said. “A lot of times we didn’t have to double-team with him. He could handle defensive ends one on one and it contributed to us being successful offensively.”
Playing on the defensive line is where his future rests. In the Southern Section Division 1 championship game against Mater Dei, he had five solo tackles and one deflected pass in a 27-7 loss.
There’s no telling how strong and how dominant he might become in the coming years as he gains strength and continues to mature, but what’s clear is with his work ethic and commitment to success, Michigan might have a future All-American.
The Los Angeles Times has selected its All-Star football team comprised of 24 players, including player, back and lineman of the year, plus coach of the year.
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