As the NFL sits at its midway point, there are several Long Beach or Moore League products with history on the line, with 13 players currently in the league.
Long Beach Poly
The Jackrabbit legend Marcedes Lewis is closing in on some unbelievable history. The class of 2002 grad is in the midst of his 15th season at the tight end position, and has now played 211 career games. If he plays in Sunday’s game against the Bears, he’ll tie Willie McGinest for most career NFL games from a Long Beach product. If he plays again the following week against the Eagles, he’d have the most NFL games ever played by a local athlete.
Lewis’ accomplishments aren’t just local. He’s No. 205 all-time out of all NFL players for most games played and will leap into the top 200 with another two games. He’s also No. 9 all-time at the tight end position, and would move up to No. 7 with another pair of games.
JuJu Smith-Schuster turned 24th birthday on Sunday by helping the Steelers get to 10-0 for the first time in franchise history. Smith-Schuster is at 58 catches for 535 yards and five touchdowns so far this season–No. 14 in the league in catches and No. 18 in touchdowns receiving.
DeSean Jackson’s season has been hampered by injuries, which have shut him down the last five weeks. His 13 catches for 155 yards move him to 611 catches for 10,575 yards and 55 touchdowns in his career–that’s No. 41 all-time in yardage, no. 75 in catches and No. 105 in touchdowns.
Linebacker Quinton Bell has been with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has bounced up and down from the practice squad a few times, but is currently on the 53-man roster.
Unfortunately for local fans, the injury bug has taken a bite. Jayon Brown was top five in the AFC in tackles before sustaining a season-ending elbow injury last weekend, cutting short what was a likely first Pro Bowl season. Perennial Pro Bowl honoree Jurrell Casey and Iman “Biggie” Marshall are both out for the year with the Broncos and Ravens.
Wilson alum Joel Bitonio is having another great season with the Cleveland Browns, where he’s ridden the highs and lows. After suffering through winless years, he’s been part of the Browns’ revival, as they’re now 6-4 and in the playoff hunt, thanks in part to Bitonio’s skill in his seventh season.
Bitonio was a Pro Bowl honoree each of the last two seasons and is in striking distance of a major honor. If he makes the Pro Bowl this season he’d be the first Wilson alum to receive that recognition three times; Norm Standlee did it twice in 1941 and 1950.
At 89 career games, Bitonio has also locked up the title of longest NFL career of any Wilson alum, passing Standlee and Jeff Severson in the last month.
It’s been a tough season for John Ross in Cincinnati. Ross has played in just three games, hampered by injuries and coaches’ decisions. After making the switch to cornerback from receiver to fill in for injured players, Ross sustained and injury and has been out for three weeks.
Lakewood and LBCC alum Matt Pryor has finally hit the big time as a starting offensive lineman for the Eagles. Pryor spent almost an entire season healthy on the inactive list but has been getting a ton of playing time this season and becoe a solid starter.
Former Lakewood player Jeremy McNichols has been a solid contributor at running back for the Titans.
Curtis Weaver was waived by the Dolphins, the team that drafted him this year, then claimed off waivers by the Browns. He’s currently on injured reserve recuperating from a season-ending surgery that occurred before the year began.
One of the miracles of this strange COVID-19 season was Compton product Datone Jones getting another shot in the NFL. The seventh-season defensive lineman missed all of 2019 looking for a team, but was signed with the Raiders as a practice squad player this year, worked up to the roster and made an appearance against the Chiefs, then was released again this week.