With just three weeks of games remaining in the NFL season, there are still four Long Beach Poly alums playing as their teams try to advance out of this weekend’s divisional playoffs and into the AFC and NFC championship games.
We’re guaranteed that at least one Poly alum will play in the AFC championship game on January 19th, since the Titans (Jayon Brown, Jurrell Casey) will visit the Ravens (Iman Marshall) this Saturday at 5:15 p.m. The other game featuring a Long Beach athlete will be Sunday at 3:40 p.m. when Marcedes Lewis’ Packers welcome in the Seahawks.
There were a pair of near-misses for Long Beach connections in last weekend’s wild card playoffs. The Eagles feature Poly alum DeSean Jackson, a speedy receiver who has missed most of this season with an injury, but who reportedly would have been cleared to play this weekend had the Eagles advanced. Instead, after an injury to quarterback Carson Wentz, they fell to the Seahawks.
The other missed connection came thanks to an overtime loss by the Bills last weekend, as they dropped a game to the Texans. The Bills logo was designed by Wilson alum Stevens Wright, and has adorned their helmets for several decades uninterrupted.
Jayon Brown is having a breakout season at linebacker for the Titans. He only had three tackles in the win last week and had to leave the game due to a shoulder injury, but should be cleared to play this weekend in Baltimore.
Brown’s three tackles brought him to 105 total on the season, making it the second most tackles ever by a Poly alum in a single season; Mark Carrier’s Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 1990 (120 tackles) is the only larger tally. Brown has, in his third year, officially posted a season with more tackles than his idol and mentor, Poly legend Willie McGinest, had in a single season.
Brown signed a four-year rookie deal with the Titans and is three years in–he will either look to renegotiate an extension prior to the 2020 season or head into that year knowing that he’s playing for a big payday in 2021.
Jurrell Casey, another Poly alum who stars in the Titans defense, had a big game as well, with just two tackles but five pressures on Tom Brady in the narrow win. Casey recently became just the third Titan in history to reach 50 career sacks with the team. Now in his ninth year, Casey made the Pro Bowl each of the last four years but was listed as an alternate for 2019.
When the Titans visit Baltimore, Brown and Casey will have their hands full with likely NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, the Ravens’ quarterback. On the Ravens defense will be a former teammate of Brown’s at Poly, Iman Marshall, currently in his rookie season after being a fourth-round draft pick by the Ravens.
Marshall was injured for the first half of the year and has played sparingly, with one tackle against the Rams.
In the NFC playoffs, Marcedes Lewis is hoping for Super Bowl glory this year in his 14th NFL season. Lewis had 15 catches for 156 yards and a touchdown so far for the Packers, and is used mostly as a blocking tight end, something he’s excelled at. Lewis has now played in 202 games in his career, becoming one of just 300 players in NFL history to break the 200 mark (out of more than 25,000 players). Lewis is 10 games shy of Willie McGinest’s record of 212 for most NFL games played by a Long Beach product.