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Snoop Dogg’s ‘The Underdoggs’ pays homage to Long Beach Poly High School

John W. Davis – The Orange County Register (TNS)

It is safe to say that Snoop Dogg loves the LBC.

The rapper-turned-actor’s new movie “The Underdoggs,” which was inspired by the Snoop Youth Football League (founded by Snoop Dogg in 2005), prominently features his beloved Long Beach Poly High School.

“Poly High School, the Funkhouse, this is the most prolific high school in Southern California as far as I’m concerned when you think about the greats that have come through that campus,” Snoop Dogg said during an exclusive sports roundtable at The Compound in Inglewood on Monday. “Let’s go back in time, you have John Wayne, Billie Jean King, Carl Weathers, just to name a few. Tony Gwynn, shall I continue, Snoop Dogg, Willie McGinest, Cameron Diaz, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jack Jones, we could just on and and on and on and on.

“So it’s the water and that’s the birthplace of where you want to be when you’re a kid in Long Beach. You all dream of going to Long Beach Poly High School because it’s so much greatness connected to it, not just sports but it’s home of scholars and champions and we push each other to be great because we know what our tradition is. That’s one school that understands tradition, so to put that in this movie showed that my tradition will always be upheld and kept close to my heart because that’s the school that I went to, my mother went to, my whole family, it’s generational.”

“The Underdoggs,” an R rated sports comedy, stars Snoop Dogg as Jaycen “2 Js” Jennings, an ex-professional football receiver sentenced to community service after a car crash. Jennings had made a name for himself at Poly High before achieving college and pro stardom that ended unceremoniously with an inflated ego and poor sportsmanship.

However, the film also subtly layered and tackled different themes like child poverty, girls playing football, and being a superstar at a young age, personified by the children who played on Snoop’s team in the movie.

“The themes that we chose for the characters were really themes that happened in my league in real life,” Snoop said. “We had girls that played in my league, we had kids who come from poverty who lived in certain homes that didn’t want anybody to know where they lived at.

“We had superstar players on the team without fathers and direction and they just were great kids on the football field but didn’t know how to hone all that into being a great kid in general. Then we had coaches who had foul mouths but they had great messages and they had to come back down to reality because these coaches, they weren’t like an ex-football player, I would say an ex-gang member for example, who is watching his community get torn to pieces by some things that he set in motion. How can he change that, become a football coach, stop the gang violence, create an environment where the parks are free for kids to practice, game days are free for kids to play. Three days of practice, one day of games, that’s four days out the week that these kids are going to live now because we’re providing a safe haven so those coaches are like Jaycen, they have to come back to their community and fix something that they did wrong, whether it’s through the league or through them being a better person and giving an example of how you can change once you come up.”

“The Underdoggs,” which has a cast full of well-known actors and entertainers like Tika Sumpter, Mike Epps, Kandi Burruss, Kal Penn and George Lopez, will premiere globally on Amazon Prime on Friday, Jan. 26.

Meanwhile, Snoop said Lopez’s character “Coach Feis” reminds him a lot of former Poly High coach Raul Lara, who won five CIF-SS titles.

“If you really think about it, George Lopez looks like Coach Lara,” Snoop said with a smile. “We’ve got old-school uniforms, I tried to stay true to the essence of where I come from, the football program that raised me, Long Beach Poly, which was the best football program in the world. We had the most players in the NFL at one point until the Snoop Youth Football League came out so what I wanted to show was my upbringing and my backgrounds of where I learned to play the sport and how scholars and champions has always been a part of my life, so to instill that in the movie will show some originality and some culture, as far as where I come from.”

Snoop, who said his favorite part of being a youth football coach is the interaction and engagement with players, wants the movie to provide an important message about giving back, especially in the Black community.

“I know some friends of mine who are exceptional football players, hall of famers, who got the same flack that 2 Js got and somehow some way I watched them work their way back into the community and that’s the depiction of what this could be, an example of greatness not just the bad side but going from bad to good,” Snoop explained.

C.J. Stroud’s example

One of Snoop’s most recent youth players who turned pro is Houston Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. Stroud is a 2020 graduate of Rancho Cucamonga High School in the Inland Empire.

“C.J. is the perfect example of every kid in my league that makes it to the league, they’re usually not the best player on their team at that time but they’re the best kid on the team at that time,” Snoop shared. “They understand what’s before them and they haven’t peaked out. … C.J. was always calm, he was always a field general. He was always a leader and he led by the way he moved, the way he conducted himself. No drugs. No partying. No criminal activity, none of that, but he comes from that so how do we separate?

“We have to find something we love and we have to find people who can inspire us. Coach Soopafly in my league was the coach who identified C.J. and dealt with him personally. He deserves a lot of credit because he deals with these kids on the day-to-day basis and he coaches them up and that’s what I love about my league is that I get a lot of the credit but it’s the intricacies of these coaches who do that groundwork, who go make sure that these parents have food and money to get by and make sure that these kids are staying the course in school and making sure their grades are way above average because they know that they are up against the gun, you can’t just be average, you have to be way above average so it’s the family, it’s the unity, it’s the village that I created with Snoop Youth Football League that makes me so proud of C.J., makes me proud of Keisean Nixon, makes me proud of Romeo Dobbs, makes me proud of (Deommodore) Lenoir, makes me proud of D’Angelo Ross, proud of Jack Jones. I could go on and on when I see these babies on there, I get excited.”

Should youth tackle football be banned?

In light of the recent discussion surrounding banning tackle football in California for children under 12, Snoop said he will continue endorsing all versions of the sport.

“I think that it represents positivity, unity and what’s necessary,” Snoop said. “Some of these kids need that. This is all they have and through sports and football, you can achieve many things. It doesn’t always have to be going to the NFL. It’s more about achieving life goals.”

Deion Sanders vs. Snoop Dogg

Snoop added that his best friend and current Colorado coach Deion Sanders is an aspirational figure but despite his success as a coach and identifier of talent, he will not be trying his hand at becoming a college football coach any time soon.

“As (youth football) coaches we’ve clashed but I don’t think I can handle the pressure of what he’s dealing with up there because, remember I like to do this (mimics smoking) all the time, so unless it’s a smoke friendly school, that’s not happening,” Snoop explained. “And I’m only good as a head coach who can find better coaches to put on my staff. I’m not a greedy guy, that’s like I have to run the offense, the defense and the special teams, no. Who’s the best guy calling the plays right now that can blow out anybody on this level? Who calls plays that moves the kids around and do all this? I need him. Who is the defensive guy that can stop all of that, bring all these guys up front and then have great guys back there? I want the best coaches and then the best recruiters. Who is going to be able to go get those kids from down South to mix them with California and put them together? It has to be that. That’s a lot to put on your shoulders and say I want to run out the tunnel with these kids. You have to have all of that together before you can run out the tunnel with those kids and Prime has been priming himself for this for a long time and remember this, his babies are on that team. When my babies was on the team, I coached every level I could coach, so if they would have went to the next level and they would have asked me to come, I would have ran right with them because I’m better for my babies because I see what you can’t see as a coach but I will bring in a coach to coach them but I’m going to help my babies in areas that you can’t because I see what you can’t see in them.

“So I’ll have to say no I won’t take a job in the NCAA so ya’ll coaches don’t have to worry about Snoop Dogg coming to get y’all. Y’all cool because all y’all kids going to come play for me anyway because my NIL deals gonna be way better than y’alls. It is what it is so y’all can breathe easy. Don’t worry about it. I’m not coming to get you.”

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