LA Times Football Player of the Year: Mason Graham
This story is part of our coverage of the 2021 LA Times All-Star Football Team. Read the full series here.
There was one character trait almost everyone used to describe Anaheim Servite’s two-way inline starter Mason Graham this season: Relentless.
Whether he was chasing 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 stamina and the courage to never take a match. Maybe it was because of his own conditioning. Maybe it was to be a heavyweight wrestler. Maybe it was out of a desire to prove he could play with the best.
“The guy made huge plays in every game,” said coach Troy Thomas. “He’s the best lineman I’ve ever coached and could be the best player. We’ll see how it ends. He is special.
For a season in which Graham put in one great performance after another against top California opponents, he was named The Times Player of the Year in High School Football.
At 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, and ready to enroll in Michigan next month, Graham used his four years of high school to change his body and change the perception of how he could become a good football player.
“He worked really hard and played a lot of sports,” Thomas said. “The fight has helped him tremendously. He played basketball in his first grade. Then he played rugby. He bought into lifting. He’s a great athlete who worked hard. And he grew up. He was a linebacker when he arrived. It’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 country. It has never been way. He has always been exceptional.
“Our league is the toughest league,” Graham said. “It just sets me up once I’m in college and become a one-sided player ready to play.”
As an offensive tackle he was so effective that he helped open the Friars’ offense for the run and pass. “He was a big part of us able to run the ball,” Thomas said. “A lot of times we didn’t have to team up with him. He could handle the defensive fins one on one and that contributed to our offensive success. “
Playing on the defensive line is where his future lies. In the Division 1 Southern Section championship game against Mater Dei, he made five solo tackles and one deflected pass in a 27-7 loss.
It’s unclear how strong and dominant he could become in the years to come as he gains strength and continues to mature, but what is clear is that with his work ethic and commitment to success, Michigan could have a future All-American.