LONG BEACH, California – Long Beach Poly High School has a deep history rooted in athletics and supported by the strong Long Beach community. Specifically, they have a history of producing top NFL talent such as Juju Smith-Schuster, Jurrell Casey, DeSean Jackson, Marcedes Lewis and more.
On Friday, Los Angeles Chargers returning Austin Ekeler were joined by Smith-Schuster, recent Super Bowl champion and New England Patriots receiver, and former Tennessee Titans star Casey, to cut the ribbon for the opening of a brand new weight room in the legendary high school.
The state-of-the-art weight room was dedicated by the Austin Ekeler Foundation, in partnership with the JuJu Foundation, The Casey Fund, The Los Angeles Chargers, Sonos, and Perform Better.
Long Beach Poly also holds the record for most football wins in California history, according to CalHiSports.
Ekeler grew up in Colorado and signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2017. He has since taken the reins as RB1, and to date has totaled 811 carries for 3,727 yards along with 389 catches for 3,448 yards and 63 total touchdowns over six seasons with the Chargers.
While Ekeler is not an alumni of the school, he still wanted to help renovate the space to inspire and benefit the next generation and the community.
“In any way, if we can implement resources, that’s what I want to do,” Ekeler said. “I am looking to keep helping. Let’s put physical resources into the community so that people can start using them. And it’s a great feeling, but I know more needs to be done.”
Unlike Ekeler, both Smith-Schuster and Casey are alumni and very proud of their alma mater.
Smith-Schuster is from Long Beach and flourished at Poly, where he was a five-star recruit as a receiver and a top-four athlete in the country, eventually deciding to stay close to home and play collegiate football at USC.
He spoke of the importance of continuing the legacy and paving the way for the next generation.
“[The new weight room] is a piece of heritage. It’s a piece of everything. It’s some of the people who came here before who paved the way,” Smith-Schuster said. “I think the biggest part of this is giving these kids the opportunity to reach new levels. The sky’s the limit, because there’s no more, ‘I don’t have this, I don’t have that.’ You know, the weights aren’t going to move themselves, you have to move the weights.”
Like Smith-Schuster, Casey was born and raised in Long Beach, played high school football at Long Beach Poly and played collegiately at USC. He played nine seasons in the NFL as a defensive end for the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos. Casey retired in 2021 and finished his career as a 5-time Pro Bowler.
Casey and his non-profit organization, The Casey Fund, were instrumental in coordinating the weight room renovation, and he and his organization continue to make a positive impact on the community.
“It is awesome [to give back to my alma mater], it’s always great to be able to give back, but if it’s somewhere close to home and touches the heart, it’s definitely a blessing,” Casey said. “Especially in the place where I’ve done all my hard work and where I the blood, sweat and tears. It is definitely a blessing to be able to come back and make a change.”
The new weight room comes just in time for the new school year and hopefully future Jackrabbits can reap the benefits of these players’ generosity.