Long Beach Poly alum JuJu Smith-Schuster was back at his alma mater last weekend, hosting a free football camp for Long Beach middle school students. Smith-Schuster, who graduated from Poly a decade ago, has since gone on to a Pro Bowl NFL career with the Steelers, and this offseason signed with the Chiefs.
Smith-Schuster has previously hosted free football camps at Veterans Memorial Stadium, but said he was excited to bring back the program for Long Beach youth on the field at Poly.
“I think these camps are very important,” he said. “I remember going to Long Beach Poly and USC camps as a kid and dreaming about playing there. It’s important to me to give back to the community–it was hard for me when we couldn’t hold it due to COVID.”
Smith-Schuster spoke to the campers before and after the camp, with each camper also receiving a free shirt and swag bag, and a free meal from Unko John’s BBQ, in addition to coaching from Long Beach Poly coaches and coaches from STARS Academy.
Smith-Schuster’s mother, Sammy Schuster, said her son has been talking about wanting to hold camps giving back to Long Beach kids since he was a Long Beach kid himself.
“He used to come to the Marcedes Lewis camps at Poly when he was a kid, I’d bring him and those meant a lot to him,” she said. “Then when he was in high school he was volunteering at Marcedes’ camps and talking about how when he makes it he wants to keep it going, that tradition of giving back.”
It’s a tradition that means a lot to the Poly football program, which is stacked with more talent this year than they’ve had since Smith-Schuster graduated. All-American defensive back Daylen Austin, who recently committed to LSU, was one of the current Poly players who volunteered at Smith-Schuster’s camp.
“My brother and I grew up going to the Marcedes Lewis camp, and it’s always meant a lot to me to see the NFL guys come back and give back,” said Austin. “These kids here are probably dreaming about playing for Poly and making it to the league the way I was when I was a kid. Hopefully JuJu can keep coming back every year so these kids can keep getting the same feeling.”
As campers were smiling and sprinting from station to station with the coaches, Poly boys’ athletic director Rob Shock couldn’t help beaming himself.
“It’s so special when our guys come back and give to the next generation,” he said. “I always talk about that at our Signing Day every year, come back and show the kids the way forward–JuJu is someone who has a really big heart for that, and always has.”
In addition to the gear all the campers got, there was also a giveaway with brand new bicycles and other equipment for some of the students on hand.