Long Beach Poly and USC alum JuJu Smith-Schuster is known nationally to football fans for two things: making history as a talented young receiver, and having fun.
Smith-Schuster last year set NFL records for most touchdowns scored before turning 21 (with five) and most yards gained before turning 21. He also led all rookies with seven total touchdowns. Smith-Schuster gained national attention with his elaborate and exuberant celebrations, befitting his age; he played hide and seek with teammates after one touchdown, and referenced Dragonball Z with another.
So it’s fitting that at Smith-Schuster’s free one-day football camp for Long Beach kids last weekend at Veterans Memorial Stadium, Smith-Schuster helped kids focus on their skills, but also focus on the fun.
“I’ve always had a great time playing the sport and I think that’s important, especially for kids,” he said.
Loud music played throughout the camp and a local radio station even sponsored dance contests during the event. Smith-Schuster himself danced from station to station, pausing to give instruction to kids working on different parts of their game, whether it was route-running or catching the ball.
What really topped things off was the way the camp ended. Unlike most one-day camps which run either in the morning or the afternoon, Smith-Schuster’s was held under the lights at Vets in the evening on a Friday night, the same time and the same field where he had so many starring moments as a Jackrabbit. Because there was record-breaking 100-degree heat that day, it still felt like a hot Summer afternoon–as such, the camp ended with a giant water balloon fight.
Camp counselors brought out coolers filled with hundreds of water balloons and let the campers go nuts on the field, as they chased each other and NFLers like Smith-Schuster and Jordan alum John Ross.
Watching NFL rookies playing with middle school and high school aged kids, it was a reminder that those players aren’t that far removed from childhood either. It was just five years ago that they were playing against each other on that same field.
It’s part of the reason that many in attendance remarked about how impressive it was to see Smith-Schuster already back in town with a camp.
“I just think it’s very important, you shouldn’t wait,” he said. “This city and community gave so much to me, it’s gotten me so far in life already. I’m so happy to be able to do this–it’s always great to give back to the kids.”
The camp was the fourth free camp in Long Beach in four weeks, and concludes a fantastic summer for local kids with more opportunities to learn from NFL players in person in a single summer than ever before.