Screen Shot 2023-02-13 at 11.13.40 AM
Football Long Beach Poly

Hometown Hero JuJu Smith-Schuster Extends Long Beach Poly’s Deep Super Bowl History

Mike Guardabascio

In August of 2010, longtime Long Beach Poly football coach Raul Lara said he thought he had a special freshman player who’d come into his program. “His name is John Smith,” said Lara. “He’s gonna be special. He might be one of those really special kids to come out of here.”

Any intelligent football person knows to trust Lara’s eye. He won five Division 1 CIF-SS championships and coached more than a dozen future NFL players while at Poly. He felt his freshman had a chance to be as good as any of them.

Thirteen years later, that scrawny, shifty freshman just won the Super Bowl, as JuJu Smith-Schuster hauled in seven catches for 53 yards (and drew a crucial penalty) to help bring the Kansas City Chiefs the Super Bowl 58 win. In the process, Smith-Schuster, a hometown hero if ever there was one, helped to deepen Long Beach Poly’s already impressive history with the Super Bowl.

Keep The562 Free to Read! $5K Birthday Fundraiser, organized by Mike Guardabascio

Help celebrate the 5 Year Anniversary of by making a tax-deductible donation to our nonprofit! We set the goal of raising $5,000 for our 5 years of covering the Long Beach community at no cost to our readers. Help keep The562 accessible to the entire community by giving what you can to support our work.

After the game, Smith-Schuster ran right into the stands to celebrate with his family, the large support network that’s been with him every game he’s played, including every game at Poly. As a sophomore starting on varsity, Smith-Schuster had dozens of family members and friends in the stands holding “Team JuJu” signs, long before any of them knew he’d be an internationally-known football pro.

He danced with his siblings and hugged his mother, Sammy, and his father, Lawrence. Then they placed a lei around his neck and wrapped him in a Samoan flag, and he went back to the field to do his interviews.

“I don’t know what to feel right now,” he said. “I’m not going to cry right now, but when I get home probably. It’s just crazy. I came here on a one-year deal to chase a Super Bowl ring. I just thank all my coaches and my teammates and obviously the man above.”

Smith-Schuster had a huge impact in the game–nobody on either team had more catches than he did, and he was basically wide open during the second half. On a critical play late in the game, Eagles CB James Bradberry held Smith-Schuster as he went into and out of his break, drawing a holding penalty that gave the Chiefs a first and goal, and allowed them to run the clock out before kicking the game-winning field goal.

There was some criticism of the refs for throwing such a pivotal flag, including from FOX color commentator Greg Olson. The infraction was obvious, however, and prevented Smith-Schuster from what would have been a wide-open touchdown.

“It was a holding, I tugged his jersey,” said Bradberry, the Eagles DB, after the game. “I was hoping they would let it slide.”

“Oh yes, 100%,” said Smith-Schuster when asked if it had been an appropriate flag. “My route was to strike inside, then strike back outside, and I couldn’t. Bradberry is a good player, but the call is gonna be called.”

The incredible ring-grabbing performance capped what has been a resurgent year for Smith-Schuster, his sixth season in the NFL and second-best in that time, runner-up only to his Pro Bowl campaign with the Steelers. Smith-Schuster had 88 catches for 1,022 yards this year, top 25 in the league in both categories; he now has 4,788 yards receiving in his career with six years under his belt, despite only being 26 years old.

After five years with the Steelers, he signed a one-year deal with the Chiefs, choosing a competitive roster with a Super Bowl chance over a longer deal and more money with another franchise. He’s hoping to extend with the Chiefs this offseason, but at 26, it’s also time to lock down with a team over a longer timeframe.

Whatever the future holds for Smith-Schuster, it’s clear that he will remain deeply involved in Long Beach. He visited a Poly game during his bye week this year and spoke to the team at halftime, and also hosted his first-ever camp at Poly last offseason. He made a large donation to the Long Beach YMCA to start an all-ages flag football program this year, and also made a financial gift to the Poly football program’s efforts to renovate its aged weight room.

That weight room has had an outsized impact on the NFL over the last century. Smith-Schuster is the ninth Poly player to be tied to a Super Bowl roster; remarkably, 13 of the 58 Super Bowls that have been played featured a Jackrabbit as part of one of the two teams, a whopping 22%. Eight Super Bowl champions have featured a Poly alum on the roster.

Willie McGinest famously played in four Super Bowls and brought home three titles, most of any Long Beach player ever, while Tony Hill played in two and won one. Manny Wright got a Super Bowl right in 2007 with the Giants in their upset of the Patriots, while Pago Togafu (Cardinals), Omar Stoutmire (Giants), and Winston Justice (Broncos) were all a part of Super Bowl losses. More recently, Randall Goforth got a ring with the Eagles during their lone Super Bowl win (he was on IR at the time of the game) and DeSean Jackson got one with the Rams, although he was not on the field for them in that game. Antonio Pierce is not a Poly alum, but the former Poly football coach was also a member of the 2007 Super Bowl champion Giants.

Smith-Schuster wasn’t the only Poly alum to make an appearance during Sunday’s broadcast either–fellow Jackrabbits Snoop Dogg and Billie Jean King were both featured in commercials.

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.