Serra High Linebacker (And RB, And Sometimes QB) Jabari Mann Is DPOY For The Second Straight Year As The Linchpin Of A Historically Good Defense On A Historically Good Team
Joseph Bey didn’t hesitate.
Serra High’s two-time All-NorCal safety was asked if he could remember a specific play or two that defined Padres linebacker Jabari Mann. Bey, who has lined up in the defensive backfield behind Mann since they were both sophomores, had an immediate answer.
“This year. It was the Bellarmine game,” Bey recalled. “The first two plays of Bellarmine’s offensive drive, he just lights up the running back in the gap both times. He was fast, physical, and just set the tone right away.”
That last sentence could describe the entire 2023 Serra defense. The Padres didn’t surrender more than 17 points until the Central Coast Section championship game when they beat Wilcox-Santa Clara 63-27 on Nov. 17. Through their first 11 games, they were allowing an average of just 8.3 points per game.
It was an immensely experienced and talented unit that featured three All-NorCal selections. However, Mann always seemed to stand out just a little bit more. He came up big in Serra’s most notable nonleague contests, combining for 17 tackles in games against De La Salle and Folsom (both of which went on to CIF State Bowl games). Mann went on to lead the team in tackles for the season and closed his prep career as a back-to-back selection for SportStars’ Defensive Player of the Year.
“Jabari Mann will go down as one of the great Serra Padres of all time,” Serra coach Patrick Walsh told the San Francisco Chronicle, which named Mann its Peninsula Player Of The Year in late December. “The things he did on the field were very raptor-like — smart, quick and powerful. He brought others along with him.”
Bey, for one, admitted that Mann’s presence and playing style helped make him a better safety.
“It’s amazing to play behind a guy who flies around and is fearless,” Bey said. “He’s just a dog. He plays fast and gets to the ball from sideline to sideline. It made things easier on me because I knew I didn’t have to worry about defending the run as much and could focus on pass coverage. Jabari’s a competitor too. He’s definitely the type of player you want to play with. Someone who wants to win and will make those plays.”
Mann didn’t just pour that competitive fire into playing linebacker. He also was a key part of Serra’s running back rotation and the team’s Wildcat quarterback as well.
But no one will soon forget the defense he anchored along with Bey and fellow seniors Danny Niu, Marley Alapati and Collin Tahitua among others.
“After our junior year, we committed ourselves to being the best defense to ever come through this school,” Bey said. “And I think we did a good job doing that.”
Bey and Niu will always have one bragging right over Mann, though. Their Pop Warner team got the best of his in the semifinals a few years before they arrived at Serra.
“We always bring that up to him,” Bey said with a slight chuckle.
Mann and Bey will remain teammates at San Jose State next fall and roommates as well.
“We’re both super excited,” the safety said. “Our chemistry is going to come over with us and it’s going to put us ahead of a lot of people. Plus, it’s always nice to have a guy like Jabari in front of me.”
One thing seems certain, running backs lining up against San Jose in the coming years may want to proceed with caution.