Austin Ekeler helps proud Long Beach Poly alumni JuJu Smith-Schuster and Jurrell Casey give back to legendary high school

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (second from left), is joined by former NFL player Jurrell Casey (center) and New England Patriots wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (second from right) during an event unveiling a new weightlifting gymnasium at Long Beach Poly High School in Long Beach.  (Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images)
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (second from left), is joined by former NFL player Jurrell Casey (center) and New England Patriots wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (second from right) during an event unveiling a new weightlifting gymnasium at Long Beach Poly High School in Long Beach. (Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images)

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Long Beach Poly High School has a deep history rooted in athletics and supported by Long Beach’s strong community. They specifically have a history of producing top NFL talent, such as Juju Smith-Schuster, Jurrell Casey, DeSean Jackson, Marcedes Lewis, and more.

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler was joined by recent Super Bowl champion and New England Patriots wide receiver Smith-Schuster and former Tennessee Titans star Casey on Friday to cut the ribbon for the opener. a brand new weight room at the mythical 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, 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. Since then, he has taken the reins as RB1 and has to date 811 carries for 3,727 yards as well as 389 catches for 3,448 total yards and 63 touchdowns in six seasons with the Chargers.

Although Ekeler is not an alumnus of the school, he still wanted to help renovate the space to inspire and help the next generation and the community.

“Anyway, if we can get resources going, that’s what I’m looking to do,” Ekeler said. “I’m looking to keep helping. Let’s put physical resources in the community for people to go and use. And it’s a great feeling, but I know there’s still a lot to do.

Unlike Ekeler, Smith-Schuster and Casey are alumni and are very proud of their alma mater.

Smith-Schuster is a Long Beach native and he thrived at Poly, where he was a five-star rookie as a receiver and a top-four athlete in the nation, and ultimately decided to stay close to home and play football. college 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 have come here before, who have paved the way,” Smith-Schuster said. “I think the biggest part about it is that these kids have 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 on their own, you have to move the weights.”

Casey, much like Smith-Schuster, was born and raised in Long Beach, played high school football at Long Beach Poly, and played collegiate 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, played an important role in coordinating the renovation of the weight room, and he and his organization continue to make a positive impact in the community.

“It’s incredible [to give back to my alma mater], it’s always amazing to be able to give back, but when it’s somewhere near my home and it touches the heart, it’s definitely a blessing,” Casey said. “Especially where I worked hard and invested blood, sweat and tears. It’s definitely a blessing to be able to come back and make a change.

The new weight room arrives just in time for the new school year, and I hope future Jackrabbits can take advantage of the generosity of these players.

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