When those Friday night lights snap on around the country this fall, there’s one high school team that can say it has produced more NFL players than any other. It’s in Texas, right? Florida?
Nope and nope.
Fear the Jackrabbit.
Long Beach Poly High in Cali has produced 52 NFL players dating back to Bullet Baker in 1927. The list includes current Eagles Winston Justice and DeSean Jackson, as well as the 77th overall pick in this year’s draft, Jurrell Casey, who is heading to the Titans.
And now there’s a new docu-series chronicling the 2010 season of the latest Poly pro-wannabes.
The show, “4th and Forever,” which premieres May 26 (9 p.m. ET, Current TV), is kind of like a “Hard Knocks” mini-me — which is something Jets defensive line coach and Poly alum Mark Carrier knows a little about.
“When I got the flyer, I just walked around the Jets offices telling the coaches, ‘See, I don’t make this stuff up,'” said Carrier, who attended a screening of the show in New York Thursday night. “I always said Poly was the best and I’ll brag on my school all day long.”
Carrier has a lot to brag about considering he was the big man on campus when he was the No. 1 recruit in the state in 1985. He also had fierce support from then-sophomore Snoop Dogg, who has since written a song about the team and whose son will be playing for the Jackrabbits this fall.
“Snoop came to practice when I was a coach with the Ravens and talked to the guys with some pretty detailed recollections of some of my high school plays,” recalled Carrier. “He was like, ‘Hey coach used to be the man back in the day,’ which I think gave me some cred with the players.”
Besides the Doggfather, Carrier is also close to alums Warren G., Willie McGinest and Steelers CB Donovan Warren, who is his godson. But Carrier has yet to meet one of the school’s most famous cheerleaders, Cameron Diaz, who worked the sidelines a few years after him.
“I think the official term is Polyette,” corrected the three-time Pro Bowler. “Her sister was there, but I just missed Cameron.”
As for “4th and Forever,” the show is bathed in the flattering SoCal sunlight that executive producer Brian Graden made famous as MTV’s president with pseudo-reality shows like “The Hills” and “Laguna Beach.” But this material is a far cry from pedicures and parties.
The story chronicles a starting running back raising a son he had at age 15, a senior linebacker selling knives door-to-door to support his out-of-work parents and a head coach who makes only $4,000 and is a probation officer on the side. As one player says, “In Long Beach, you’re either a gang-banger or you play sports.”
What about the team Carrier is on these days?
Carrier laughs that the Jets coaches have been doing a lot of “self-scouting” by evaluating the team with what they can go on, and is seriously anxious to get to know their top two draft picks, defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis.
“After they were picked, all these coaches came into my office wanting to know if I was Rex Ryan‘s stepson or something but I just said, ‘Hey, it helps when your head coach is a former D-line coach,'” said Carrier.
One thing Carrier hasn’t gotten around to with all this lockout downtime is reading Ryan’s new book, “Play it Like You Mean It,” even though the coach gifted him a copy.
“My mother actually read it and could barely stop laughing while asking me if he really did some of the stuff, and I’m like, ‘Mom, he probably did worse,'” said Carrier. “I don’t need to read it. I’ve lived it.”