California is known as a hotbed for high school football talent. The state is known for churning out elite prospects and sending them to the next level, ready to produce from the moment they arrive on campus.
Some of California’s brightest and most recognizable talents over the years have manned the quarterback position. From national record holders to Gatorade Players of the Year and All-Americans, the state has seen more than its fair share of elite quarterbacks rise through the high school ranks.
With this in mind, USA Today High School Sports took a crack at ranking the top 10 quarterbacks in California high school football history. Here is how the list turned out.
JT Daniels — Mater Dei
Daniels was nothing short of a force in his three years at Mater Dei, throwing for 2,014 yards and 152 touchdowns.
Daniels’ junior season was the highlight of his high school career, as he led Mater Dei to a perfect 15-0 record with 4,123 yards and 52 touchdowns through the air.
Daniels graduated from Mater Dei before his senior year and enrolled early at USC. He then transferred to Georgia, where he has become the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback and an NFL draft prospect.
Steve Sogge — Gardena
Sogge lit up opposing defenses through the air before it became popular to do so, setting what was believed to be a national record of 2,361 passing yards as a senior at Gardena High School. He also led Gardena to the Los Angeles City Section championship and was named Los Angeles City Section Player of the Year and a Parade All-American that year.
Sogge was USC’s starting quarterback from 1967-68, where he led the Trojans to a national championship in 1967 and a No. 2 ranking in 1968. Sogge did not play professional football, as he opted for a career in baseball that topped out at the AAA level.
Ron Cuccia — Wilson
Cuccia led Wilson to three straight Los Angeles City Section Class 3A titles and 39 straight wins, earning Los Angeles City Section Player of the Year in 1975, 1976, and 1977.
Cuccia set a national record with 8,804 career passing yards to go along with 91 touchdown passes, 54 rushing touchdowns and 11,451 yards of total offense in his career. He played football at Harvard before giving up the sport and becoming a chiropractor.
Matt Barkley — Mater Dei
Barkley was a trailblazer at Mater Dei, becoming one of four freshmen to start at the California powerhouse and the first junior to ever earn Gatorade National Player of the Year honors.
Barkley went on to throw for 12,327 yards at USC. He is currently a free agent after spending three seasons as a backup with the Bills.
John Paye — Menlo School
Paye was a two-sport star in high school, leading Menlo School to three North Coast Section football championships and a state championship in basketball. He finished his high school football career with 7,569 passing yards, earning Parade and USA Today All-American honors along the way.
Paye started as a freshman at Stanford on both its football and basketball teams and led the Cardinal to the Gator Bowl as a senior. He later went on to play two seasons with the 49ers.
Jimmy Clausen — Oaks Christian
Clausen had his way with defenses throughout California while at Oaks Christian, going a perfect 42-0 as a starter and winning USA Today Offensive Player of the Year. He led Oaks Christian to a state championship in 2006 and finished his high school career with 10,677 career passing yards.
Clausen went on to star at Notre Dame, where he threw for 8,148 careering passing yards and earned second-team All-American honors in 2009. He spent six seasons in the NFL, working mostly as a backup.
Jake Browning — Folsom
Browning set numerous state and national passing records throughout his All-American high school career. He tied the national record for touchdown passes in a season with 91 and finished his career with 16,775 passing yards and California Gatorade Player of the Year honors as a senior.
Browning went on to have a prolific career at the University of Washington, passing for 10,612 yards and leading the Huskies to the College Football Playoff semifinals.
Pat Haden — Bishop Amat
Haden became the nation’s all-time leading passer in 1970 when he hit the 7,633-yard mark. Most of Haden’s passes went to J.K. McKay, as the two remain one of the most prolific duos in high school football history to this day.
Haden played at USC upon graduating high school and put together one of the best careers in Trojans history, leading the program to three Rose Bowls and three national championships. He then played six years in the NFL with the Rams, throwing for over 10,000 yards.
Matt Leinart — Mater Dei
Leinart led Mater Dei to a state championship in 2001, earning Parade All-American honors. He went on to become one of the most decorated college quarterbacks of all-time at USC, leading the Trojans to a national championship and winning the Heisman Trophy in 2004.
Leinart played seven seasons in the NFL, playing mostly as a backup for three teams.
John Elway — Granada Hills
Elway started his high school football career at Pullman High School in Washington, but moved to Granada Hills as a sophomore when his father because the head coach at San Jose State.
Once he got comfortable in his new surroundings, Elway developed into the best quarterback in California high school football history, throwing for 3,040 yards as a junior. Elway injured his leg as a senior, but still managed to make the Parade All-American team and earn second-team all-city recognition.
Elway went on to star at Stanford before putting together a Hall of Fame career with the Broncos, leading Denver to two Super Bowls, earning nine trips to the Pro Bowl and league MVP honors in 1987.