Snoop Dogg talks new youth football movie, his NFL products and NIL frustrations

Snoop Dogg is a long-time fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But these days, he’s meeting more of his favorite football players long before they reach the NFL. His Snoop Youth Football League has put more than 50 players in the NFL, including Rookie of the Year candidate C.J. Stroud.

Youth football is a big part of the iconic rapper’s life, and his latest venture into youth athletics gets an IMDb credit in “The Underdoggs,” which premieres Friday on Amazon Prime. Snoop stars as Jaycen “Two Js” Jennings, a former professional football player who gets in trouble with the law and ends up coaching a struggling youth football team in his hometown of Long Beach, Calif.

Snoop said he added bits of his Long Beach roots to the film. His character starred at Long Beach Poly, his real high school. George Lopez plays Coach Feis, who Snoop said resembles former Poly coach Raul Lara.

Snoop has been an advocate for youth sports for a long time, establishing his league in 2005 in the Los Angeles area with football and cheerleading available for children ages 5-13. According to the league’s website, more than 60,000 youth have taken part in the program.

Youth football, however, has plenty of detractors as participation in tackle football amongst children has declined in recent years with safety concerns a major factor. California has seen a push to eliminate tackle football for children 12 years old and under (flag football would be the option), although Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would not sign the bill.

“I beg to differ when they say let’s get rid of football and it’s negative,” Snoop said. “We show all sides of the positive through football, and this movie is a perfect example because it was inspired by my football league, and certain players from my league inspired each character in this movie.”

Snoop’s league has produced plenty of NFL success stories, including Stroud (Houston Texans); receivers Juju Smith-Schuster (New England Patriots) and Romeo Doubs (Green Bay Packers); defensive backs Keisean Nixon (Packers) Deommodore Lenoir (San Francisco 49ers) and Jack Jones (Las Vegas Raiders); and linebacker Daiyan Henley (Los Angeles Chargers).

Snoop’s long-time ties with youth football have also led him to become more interested in college football and the world of NIL deals and more. When he was a fixture at USC games during the Reggie Bush days, players weren’t allowed to profit off their name, image or likeness.

Snoop sees what’s currently happening in college football as a good thing. He also has a problem with coaches who do not like NIL deals.

“For many years, (they) made money off my homies, and my homies didn’t make no money off the jerseys, no money off the ticket sales, none of that,” Snoop said. “But the coaches got big contracts, and whenever they were ready to leave, they would just leave unannounced and get a whole new contract, and then the kid would have to suffer.”

Snoop, however, has no plans to get involved in college football. He considers Colorado coach Deion Sanders a good friend. He attended Sanders’ games at Jackson State and Colorado, and their youth league teams played each other in the past.

“I won’t take a job in the NCAA, so y’all coaches don’t have to worry about Snoop Dogg coming,” he said.

But what kind of coach is Coach Snoop? He said he likes to hire coaches better than him to run things. He loves seeing how the game has evolved to feature spread formations on offense, even in goal-line situations. Snoop believes the benefits of teamwork and being able to emphasize academics and assist families through the game makes football worthwhile.

He also is the guy who provides opportunities. Snoop used his league to employ community members, including ex-gang members, to coach. Some of that is shown in the film, as comedian Mike Epps, who plays Kareem, is looking to turn his life around through coaching. He said he receives a lot of credit, but the coaches who do most of the work with the players deserve praise for providing mentorship.

Snoop is enthusiastic about the movie, and he is passionate about the players who come through his program. That’s why he can take some solace in watching the NFL postseason — even if his favorite team is no longer playing.

“When I see these babies out there, I get excited,” he said. “I’m a Steelers fan, but I’m a fan of my kids. When my team loses, I’m mad, but if I see my kids still playing and still having a good time and fighting, that means more.

“At the end of the day, we put somebody in a position where they can make their family proud of them. Not just ‘me,’ but ‘we.’”

(Photo by Axelle / Bauer-Griffin / FilmMagic)

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