Best Long Beach Poly Football Players of All Time
When it comes to producing NFL players, one high school stands above all others — Long Beach Polytechnic in Long Beach, California. Long Beach Poly's tradition of sending players to the NFL has made it one of the most respected high school football programs in the nation.
A staggering 58 players have made the NFL since the 1920s. The best of the best Long Beach Poly players have become household names and earned All-American honors, national championships and Super Bowl victories.
These are the greatest Long Beach Poly football players in history.
Honorable Mention: Winston Justice
Position: Offensive tackle
Graduation year: 2002
NFL: Philadelphia Eagles (2006-11), Indianapolis Colts (2012), Denver Broncos (2013)
Bottom line: Winston Justice didn't start playing football until his sophomore year of high school and became a force on the offensive line for Long Beach Poly. In his three years on the varsity, the 6-foot-6, 317-pound offensive tackle went 39-1-1 and won three CIF division titles.
As a senior, Justice was named to every high school All-American team imaginable and signed with USC, where he started as a true freshman. He won a national championship in 2003 and blocked for three Heisman Trophy winners in quarterback Carson Palmer, quarterback Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush while earning All-Pac-10 honors three times.
Justice played nine seasons in the NFL.
10. Jurrell Casey
Position: Defensive line
Graduation year: 2008
NFL: Tennessee Titans (2011-19), Denver Broncos (2020)
Bottom line: Jurrell Casey went from being a dominant defensive lineman at Long Beach Poly to a dominant defensive lineman at USC, where he was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection before being leaving school one year early to enter the NFL draft.
In 10 seasons in the NFL, Casey was one of the league's more dominant, well-respected interior defensive linemen — sort of a poor man's Aaron Donald — as he made five Pro Bowls and was named NFL All-Pro in 2013. Casey finished his career with 51 sacks.
9. Leonard Russell
Position: Running back
Graduation year: 1987
College: Arizona State
NFL: New England Patriots (1991-93), Denver Broncos (1994), St. Louis Rams (1995), San Diego Chargers (1996)
Bottom line: Leonard Russell made his bones playing Pop Warner football in Long Beach, where he earned the nickname "Eight Ball" from friends and went on to become a dominant running back for Long Beach Poly, winning California Gatorade Player of the Year honors in 1986.
Russell was a perfectly built running back at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds and was a two-time NJCAA All-American at Mt. San Antonio College before transferring to Arizona State. He's the only Long Beach Poly player on the list not to play Division I football in California.
Russell was the No. 14 overall pick in the 1991 NFL draft by the New England Patriots, played six seasons in the NFL and was the 1991 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
8. Chris Lewis
Graduation year: 1999
NFL Europe/AFL: Cologne Centurions (2005), San Jose Sabercats (2006)
Bottom line: Quarterback Chris Lewis remains the only Long Beach Poly player to be named Gatorade National Player of the Year, bringing home the award as a senior in 1998 after he threw for 3,170 yards and 43 touchdowns.
Lewis, who was also named CIF Offensive Player of the Year, signed with Stanford and started multiple games for the Cardinal each of his four seasons. But he was never the full-time starter and only was named the starter heading into the season once, before his redshirt junior season.
Lewis played one season in NFL Europe and one season in the AFL.
7. Willie Brown
Graduation year: 1960
NFL: Los Angeles Rams (1964-65), Philadelphia Eagles (1966)
Bottom line: Willie Brown grew up playing football, basketball and baseball in the parks in Long Beach with his brothers and led Long Beach Poly to a 22-0-1 record over his junior and senior seasons, winning back-to-back state championships and was named CIF Player of the Year in 1959.
Brown won national championships in two different sports at USC — in football in 1962 when he led the team in rushing, kickoff returns and interceptions and baseball in 1963 alongside high school teammate Bud Hollowell. Both of Brown's brothers, Ollie and Oscar, went on to play Major League Baseball.
Willie Brown played three seasons in the NFL and returned to USC as an assistant coach in football and baseball, winning two more national titles in football in 1972 and 1974 and another national title in baseball in 1970.
Brown died of cancer in 2018, at 76 years old.
6. Tony Hill
Position: Wide receiver
Graduation year: 1972
NFL: Dallas Cowboys (1977-86)
Bottom line: Tony Hill played quarterback for Long Beach Poly before switching to wide receiver at Stanford, where he set career records with 140 receptions, 2,225 yards and 18 touchdowns while becoming a two-time All-American.
Hill played 10 seasons in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys and won a Super Bowl as a rookie. He was selected to three Pro Bowls and was part of the first team in NFL history to have two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard running back in 1979 alongside Drew Pearson and Tony Dorsett.
5. Marcedes Lewis
Position: Tight end
Graduation year: 2001
NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars (2006-17), Green Bay Packers (2018-present)
Bottom line: Marcedes Lewis was named a Parade All-American as a senior at Long Beach Poly and was one of the most highly recruited tight ends in the country, although he went counter to most of his Jackrabbits teammates and played college football for UCLA.
Lewis, 6-foot-6 and 267 pounds, set UCLA records for tight ends with 1,571 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior in 2005. He also won the John Mackey Award as college football's best tight end and was named All-American.
Lewis was a first-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2006, was an NFL All-Pro and Pro Bowl pick in 2010. He entered his 17th NFL season in 2022 at 38 years old with 426 receptions for 5,018 receiving yards and 37 touchdowns.
4. Gene Washington
Position: Wide receiver
Graduation year: 1965
NFL: San Francisco 49ers (1969-77), Detroit Lions (1979)
Bottom line: Gene Washington's importance to Long Beach Poly went beyond athletics, where he was a star quarterback and basketball player. He was the first Black ever voted as the school's student body president.
After he starred at Long Beach Poly, Washington switched positions to wide receiver in college and was an All-American at Stanford in 1968. Washington played 10 years in the NFL — nine years with the San Francisco 49ers — and was a four-time NFL All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler. He led the league in receiving yards in 1970 and in receiving touchdowns in 1972.
Washington was also an actor in movies and television shows in the 1970s, including "The Mod Squad," and was the NFL director of operations from 1994 to 2009.
3. Mark Carrier
Graduation year: 1986
NFL: Chicago Bears (1990-96), Detroit Lions (1997-99), Washington Redskins (2000)
Bottom line: Mark Carrier wasn't just one of the best safeties in Long Beach Poly history. He was one of the best high school safeties of all time. A Parade All-American and USA Today All-American as a senior in 1985, he anchored one of the best high school defenses in California history.
Carrier went on to star at USC, where he was the first Jim Thorpe Award winner in school history and a two-time consensus All-American. Carrier was the No. 6 overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft, led the NFL in interceptions as a rookie and was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Carrier played 11 seasons in the NFL, made three Pro Bowls and finished his career with 32 interceptions.
2. DeSean Jackson
Position: Wide receiver
Graduation year: 2005
NFL: Philadelphia Eagles (2008-13, 2019-20), Washington Redskins (2014-16), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2017-18), Los Angeles Rams (2021), Las Vegas Raiders (2021)
Bottom line: DeSean Jackson was a sensation as a wide receiver, kick returner and defensive back for Long Beach Poly. He earned the California Mr. Football and Los Angeles Times Southern California Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2004 after he led the Jackrabbits to the CIF Southern Section championship.
Jackson was named PrepStar All-American and was MVP of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl before becoming a two-time All-American at Cal, where he also set the Pac-10 career record for most punt returns for touchdowns.
After his 14th NFL season in 2021, Jackson was a three-time Pro Bowler and NFL All-Pro selection with 632 receptions for 1,110 yards and 58 touchdowns. He also has NFL career records for most touchdowns over 60 yards and most touchdowns over 80 yards.
1. Willie McGinest
Position: Linebacker/defensive end
Graduation year: 1990
NFL: New England Patriots (1995-2005), Cleveland Browns (2006-08)
Bottom line: Willie McGinest was a two-sport star at Long Beach Poly in football and basketball, where he was an All-CIF selection in both sports. But the future for the 6-foot-5, 270-pound linebacker/defensive end was in football.
McGinest was named Super Prep All-American and Blue Chip All-American as a senior in 1989, when he racked up 107 tackles, 18 sacks, two fumble recovers, four pass deflections, one interception and four blocked kicks.
He was just as dominant at USC, where he started every game for three years, was a three-time All-Pac-10 selection and All-American as he racked up 29 sacks, 193 tackles, 48 tackles for loss and 26 pass deflections.
McGinest burgeoned his legendary status in the NFL, where he played 15 seasons and won three Super Bowl championships with the New England Patriots, setting NFL postseason records for career sacks (16) and single-game sacks (4.5).
He was also a two-time Pro Bowler and named to the New England Patriots All-1990s Team and All-2000s Team.
Other Stadium Talk Stories You Might Like