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Football LB In NFL Long Beach Poly

JuJu Smith-Schuster Hosts Free Football Camp at Long Beach Poly

JuJu Smith-Schuster is a busy guy.

The Long Beach Poly alum won the Super Bowl with the Chiefs, and life has been a bit of a whirlwind since then, trying to squeeze in a White House visit, a ring ceremony, time with family, endorsement opportunities, and perhaps a little downtime too. But last weekend the busy Smith-Schuster made time for his alma mater and the kids in the city that helped raise him, with a series of charitable appearances in Long Beach.

First on Friday, Smith-Schuster joined with fellow NFLers Austin Ekeler and Jurrell Casey to help open the new Poly weight room, which his foundation (the JuJu Foundation) donated funds for. Then that evening, Smith-Schuster was back at Poly to host his third annual football camp.

A free camp for Long Beach kids, more than 250 youth players signed up to receive instruction as well as a shirt, autographs, and pictures with Smith-Schuster.

“This is very important to me,” he said at the camp. “It’s necessary to come back and give back to the kids, to hold camps like these so that they can come and be a part of it. I’ll never forget where I came from–I started here, just because I’m at the top now doesn’t mean that I can’t show light to the younger kids, so I’ll always do that.”

The camp was well-run and featured free dinner for the campers as well, who needed some refueling after an afternoon and evening full of drills and instruction with Smith-Schuster, his trainer, and several Poly football coaches and players as well.

“We love it when our alumni come back and JuJu has made it really clear how important Long Beach kids are to him, to be quite honest,” said Poly coach Stephen Barbee. “He hasn’t forgotten them or our team, he’s always there when people need him.”

It was clear that Smith-Schuster wasn’t there as a chore or obligation, either–he danced his way through the camp, mixing it up with kids and enjoying himself. He also was intensely interested in the tug-of-war competitions that pitted offensive and defensive position groups against each other.

“I love when we compete, it’s all about competing for me,” he said.

The whirlwind charitable tour felt like a competition, as he woke up on Saturday and hosted a free video game camp for kids, and then whisked off to his annual JuJu Foundation Luau dinner, where he and other USC greats including Anthony Munoz, Darnell Bing, and Marqise Lee raised more than $100,000 for the JuJu Foundation. Those donations will fund the foundation’s charitable interests including their Christmas layaway payoff drive.

Smith-Schuster told a story at the Foundation dinner that highlighted why it’s important to him to give back.

“When I was a kid, guys would host camps and charge money for them, and we couldn’t afford them,” he said. “So I’d sit there and watch, and do the reps in my head. We stretched everything. And I always told myself if I make it, I’ll shine a light for those kids out there like me who need an opportunity.”

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.