Whether snagging a football or gripping a controller, Long Beach’s JuJu Smith-Schuster remains one of the biggest and most accessible stars around.
For the second consecutive year, the former Long Beach Poly Jackrabbit and current New England Patriots wide receiver offered a free summer gaming camp for kids aged 9-13, hosted at Localhost in Fullerton. The camp was held in partnership with Nerd Street, one of the leading organizations for esports facilities and events across the country.
“This event—it means everything,” said Smith-Schuster, who helped lead the Kansas City Chiefs to a Super Bowl win back in February. “I think I’m one of the only athletes to actually have a gaming camp, and it means a lot for me to come back every year with these kids who love to play video games.”
A total of 50 kids were able to register for a free ticket to the camp and had the chance to play alongside Smith-Schuster in a variety of games including Minecraft, Roblox, Rocket League, Fortnite, Super Smash Brothers, Apex Legends, Madden, NBA 2K and more. The camp is another product of the JuJu Foundation, which was founded in 2019 and has already mobilized a number of community initiatives throughout Long Beach and beyond.
“JuJu’s influence and contributions to the local community is tremendous, and his desire to connect with kids through gaming is an important component of the mission,” said Nerd Street camps director Ben Beaver. “Video games, like traditional sports, have the power to unite individuals from diverse backgrounds and offer people new opportunities and career paths. Working alongside the JuJu Foundation has been a privilege, and we are thrilled to welcome them back for a second year of camp with us.”
While a large portion of Smith-Schuster’s philanthropic efforts have focused around football, including his annual camp at Long Beach Poly High, along with financial donations to support local football programs, gaming is also an important part of his public profile. The Pro Bowl wide receiver has over a quarter million followers on the popular streaming platform Twitch, and he has held endorsement deals with gaming companies like HyperX, Xbox, Apple Arcade, Steam and others. Critics have often chided Smith-Schuster’s eagerness to get involved with ventures outside of football, but building a massive and diverse social media following has given him a platform to impact a wide range of young people with varying interests.
“I think it’s really nice that I’m able to share a passion that I have with kids that can relate in the same way,” Smith-Schuster said. “I didn’t go out and party or hang out with friends, moreso it was trying to play video games as much as I can. I remember waking up at 5 a.m. so I could game for a couple hours before going to school. It’s just my passion that I have, and to share this with these younger kids who have the same passion, it’s really really nice to come back down here and give back.”
As a partner, Nerd Street is eager to provide more access for young gamers by giving them the resources they need to learn and compete at a high level. Through a network of Localhost facilities across the nation in cities like Philadelphia, St. Louis, Denver and others, Nerd Street is offering camps to kids with an interest in gaming, plus the chance to participate in tournaments, team training, private events, and more.
“Competitive video games create the same life and educational opportunities as sports, but unfortunately many kids don’t have access to the equipment needed to compete,” said Nerd Street Founder and CEO, John Fazio. “Our venues fix this problem and allow anyone to affordably take advantage of all the opportunities gaming and esports have to offer. As a pro athlete and a gamer who once had to drag his console and TV to his grandmother’s house just to get internet, JuJu understands the need for this type of offering better than most, and I’m proud to have him not only supporting us, but also rolling up his sleeves and running his own camp out of our venue.”