When Super Bowl LVII kicks off in Glendale, Arizona on Sunday, a large portion of the Long Beach football community will have a rooting interest in the Kansas City Chiefs.
One of the city’s most famous NFL stars, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, will be playing the most important game of his life on the biggest stage in American sports—11 years after he won a CIF championship with the Long Beach Poly High School Jackrabbits.
“This game means everything to me,” said Smith-Schuster during a Super Bowl press conference earlier this week. “I dreamed of this as a kid to have this opportunity, so it means everything.”
Smith-Schuster first started drawing attention on the football field as a star athlete in the Snoop Youth Football League, then left his mark at Poly, including with that 2012 championship.
After high school, Smith-Schuster had a terrific career at USC and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He played his first five seasons in Pittsburgh before signing a one-year deal with Kansas City last offseason.
He became the top wide receiver in a potent Chiefs offense, and is in the midst of the deepest playoff run of his career.
“I’ve been chasing a Super Bowl ring for the past six years,” Smith-Schuster said during Super Bowl Media Day. “And year six, in 2023, I’m actually here … it’s unbelievable.”
Long Beach has a lengthy history with the Super Bowl—and with the Chiefs—dating back to Super Bowl I. That game was played at the LA Coliseum back in 1967, and the Chiefs spent the week leading up to the big game practicing at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
While in Long Beach, the Chiefs stayed at the Edgewater Hotel, which has since been replaced by the SeaPort Marina Hotel and now the 2ND & PCH shopping complex.
The city also has a long history of producing NFL talent and winning championships. From Wilson’s Jeff Severson, to St. Anthony’s Manu Tuiasosopo, to Long Beach Poly’s Willie McGinest, Long Beach has often seen one of its own in the Super Bowl.
Still, it’s been a while since a Long Beach athlete got to play in the big game. While Poly alums like Randall Goforth and DeSean Jackson have collected Super Bowl rings in recent seasons, they weren’t actually on the field. Not since 2014, when Winston Justice represented Poly in Super Bowl XLVIII, has the city had a player to root for during the Super Bowl.
But that all changes on Sunday, when Smith-Schuster and his teammates take the field against the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium in Arizona. Smith-Schuster has never been one to shy away from the spotlight, so he should feel right at home while chasing his childhood dream.
Super Bowl LVII is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. PT kickoff this Sunday, and can be seen live on FOX.