There’s not much that’s “normal” about the 2020 NFL season, which will be played with no fans in attendance at most of the league’s stadiums. But one thing that is as regular as clockwork: the city of Long Beach will be filling the rosters of NFL teams across the country.
Led by Long Beach Poly’s state-best seven players, the city of Long Beach and the Moore League have a total of 13 players on NFL teams this year, more than any other league in the state of California.
Here’s a look at who to watch for on Sundays:
Long Beach Poly
The Jackrabbits have more than twice as many NFL alums as the second best school in California, with more than 70 players (Dorsey is second with 33). This year the Jackrabbits’ seven active players is more than twice as many as the three produced by the second-best schools in the state–and Poly would have had one more, but Jamize Olawale opted out of his ninth season due to concerns about the coronavirus.
The seven players out there for the Jackrabbits all have a shot at their own slice of history. Marcedes Lewis becomes just the fifth NFL tight end to play for 15 seasons, and could pass Willie McGinest this year for most NFL games ever by a Long Beach product. DeSean Jackson is in the top 50 all time for NFL receiving yardage and has a chance to add to his historic run in his 13th season.
Five-time Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey has more Pro Bowl appearances than any Long Beach product ever and could go for his sixth this year with a new team, as he’ll be lining up for the Broncos after nine years in Tennessee. JuJu Smith-Schuster remains one of the league’s brightest young stars and caught two touchdowns on Monday night in a win over the Giants.
The ESPN Monday Night Football doubleheader was a Jackrabbit showcase, with Smith-Schuster’s two touchdowns in the first game, followed by Casey’s Broncos taking on his old team, the Titans. Fellow Poly alum Jayon Brown is in his fourth season as a linebacker with the Titans and is hoping for another 100+ tackle season this year.
Poly alum Quinton Bell spent last year on the Raiders’ practice squad but made the active roster this year with the Buccaneers, and got in the first game of the year to make a tackle. Poly’s Iman “Biggie” Marshall is on injured reserve with the Ravens.
Josh Love and Kobe Williams, both undrafted free agents who signed with the Rams and Jaguars, respectively, didn’t make those teams’ rosters.
Arguably the best Long Beach player in the NFL this year is a Wilson alum, as Joel Bitonio enters his seven season as an interior offensive lineman with the Browns, fresh off two Pro Bowl appearances. Bitonio was ranked as one of the top interior linemen in the league and is already No. 2 all-time in Wilson history for most NFL seasons. He’s also tied for the most Pro Bowl appearances in school history with Norm Standlee, who went in 1941 and 1950.
Wilson alum Zimari Manning got an undrafted free agent contract with the Broncos but didn’t make the roster.
Jordan’s John Ross enters his fourth season with the Bengals, hoping to make a big impact with new quarterback Joe Burrow, the top pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Fellow Panther John Timu isn’t playing anymore but did get an assistant coaching gig with the Chicago Bears, who he played for.
Two former Lancers are in the league this year: Matt Pryor, a lineman in his second season with the Eagles, and Jeremy McNichols, a Lakewood running back who was signed to the Titans this year in his fourth year of NFL action.
Curtis Weaver was the only Long Beach player drafted this year, and didn’t make the roster with the Dolphins, the team that drafted him. After being put on waivers, Weaver was claimed by the Browns, who put him on their active 53-man roster to start the season. Weaver is the seventh Saint to make the NFL and first in more than 20 years.
Longtime NFL veteran Datone Jones didn’t make an NFL roster but is on the Raiders’ practice squad this year.