With the help of local legend Snoop Dogg, the latest five-star talent produced by Southern California football factory Long Beach Polytechnic, Jack Jones, announced his commitment to USC last Wednesday.
Jones wasn’t the first and won’t be the last.
Long Beach Poly has produced the most NFL players of any high school in America and has shown no signs of slowing down. Each of the last three years, a Poly five-star player has made his college choice known with a national announcement on signing day. It just so happens that USC was the place to be for JuJu Smith-Schuster and Iman Marshall along with Jones.
How did Jones come to his decision?
“Every time I went up there I felt like I was family, I was at home,” Jones said shortly after announcing his decision. “Everybody kept telling me, through this process, to go where feels like home and is the best.
“I’ve been at all these schools and nothing beat out USC and I feel like you got to go with home.”
But that doesn't tell the whole story of how a community helped its latest (green and) golden son.
Jones had trimmed his finalists to the Trojans, Texas A&M and Alabama in late January after narrowing his list to a top five in December, but throughout the final month leading up to National Signing Day, Jones waffled back and forth between USC and the two SEC West schools.
“Beginning of January I'm thinking Texas A&M. I'm there for sure. Without a doubt,” Jones said. “Mid-January I'm stressed out. I don't know where I'm going. Late January I'm thinking Alabama. Best choice. They're losing their starting corner. I could possibly win the natty. Coach [Nick] Saban is one of the greatest coaches to ever coach the game of college football.
“Late January I'm thinking, I'm thinking I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm thinking SC is not the move.”
Jones had to work through the process to ultimately come to his decision to become a Trojan. That meant relying on his network and support system. Jones turned to his family. He quizzed the Long Beach Poly assistants and support staff. Jones consulted with Poly head coach Antonio Pierce, a nine-year NFL veteran who played in a Pro Bowl and won a Super Bowl during his career. He picked the brains of former teammates that have gone through the recruiting process, including Marshall and Smith-Schuster.
The final month began with assessing and weighing his options with Pierce, who has been an invaluable resource for recent Poly players because of his experiences. Pierce made it to the top of the football mountain even though he spent two years at a junior college and had a solid but unspectacular career at Arizona before signing with the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent.
“He's on point with everything just because he's been there, he's done it, he's went through the process,” Jones said. “So he knows what to do. He was just there hand-and-hand through it telling me don't do this, do that and it helped me a lot.”
But even before the hectic final month leading up to his decision, Jones had some 200-pound cornerback footsteps he was able to follow. Marshall was the nation’s No. 1 defensive back in the 2015 class and changed the recruiting game to an extent. He took advantage of the five official visits a prospective student-athlete is allowed to take. Marshall took trips to local schools unofficially and saved the officials for schools in other areas of the country that he hadn’t experienced. Knowing what local schools USC and UCLA could provide, he gave programs such as Michigan and Florida State an opportunity to prove themselves better than what could be provided in Los Angeles.
Jones followed the lead. He grew his brand to a broader audience using his official visits to explore Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Alabama and Arizona State. Jack said Marshall’s recruitment the year before “made me open my eyes.”
“He taught me a lot. Without him, [Pierce], [academic] coach [Monica] Kim and a lot of other people, I'd probably be out here in this recruiting thing blind.”
“I think it was great because it's always easier to follow someone's footsteps,” Pierce said. “It's easier to learn by example with the things they did right or wrong. I think for Jack that was a huge influence with him going to USC.”
Marshall’s father, Tony, also was instrumental in helping the Jones’ family through the process, Jack’s father Brent said. Having never incurred anything quite like the fiasco that a national recruitment can become, Brent said he leaned heavily on Tony Marshall and the Long Beach Poly community of former players to provide answers for his many questions.
“Poly is really a family when it comes to that,” Brent said. “Poly is really a family with all the previous guys always good about reaching back, which they did to help my guy out. I didn't know nothing about nothing, but they were able to walk me through it and walk my son through it and it helped out a whole lot.”
The influence from Iman Marshall’s recruitment path extended to an announcement video. Marshall was the first national recruit to use the medium last year and it became a trend over the subsequent 365 days, but Jack Jones topped all of those before him by having Snoop Dogg participate. Marshall was particularly impressed.
“I loved it. I like how he brought Snoop in there. I liked everything. It was real dope,” said Marshall, who was at Long Beach Poly to support Jones and his former teammates. “You got a legendary rapper. You got Snoop Dogg. A lot of people can't get that kind of publicity and those type of people in your commitment video, so it was big seeing that. It was bringing back somebody that's an icon to Long Beach Poly and has represented Long Beach Poly as we do as well.”
Marshall didn’t think he played a large role in Jones’ decision to choose USC. Similar to the advice given to him a year before and that Pierce also gave Jones, Marshall told his playmaking teammate to follow his heart.
“Do what you need to do and what you feel is best for you at the end of the day,” Marshall said he told Jones. “A lot of people are going to tell you and sway you this way and that way. At the end of the day, you know where feel at home at and he chose the decision today of where he felt at home. I'm excited for him. I'm excited to play with him again.”
“In this process, I switched about seven schools. It was just crazy. I was just feeling different schools. It's kind of hard to pick a school when they're all telling you the same things. When it comes down to that, you just have to pick what feels like home. I feel like this feels like home the most.
“SC was just so complete to me. I just felt like it was so complete. That was the missing piece of the puzzle and now the puzzle is put together.”
From Poly to playing for the Trojans, the tradition continues.
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