OT Kyle Long
I like this kid.
Oregon Ducks recruit Kyle Long overcomes mistakes to live up to talent and name
By Aaron Fentress, The Oregonian
Published: Monday, January 30, 2012, 8:31 PM
The pressure to live up to his family's name and talents didn't consume Kyle Long as a two-sport high school star growing up in Charlottesville, Va.
The demands of competing at a high level were not to blame when the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long failed as a student and baseball player at Florida State
The only obstacle preventing Kyle Long, maybe the most talented of the Long lineage, from achieving success was Kyle Long.
Things came too easily, too soon for the Oregon Ducks offensive tackle recruit out of Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif. Until they didn't.
He wound up in jail. Only then did he realize he had to fix himself. That revelation shifted his trajectory to conclude one of the more unusual paths any Oregon football recruit will have ever traveled before eventually landing in Eugene. Today, Long couldn't be happier with where he's ended up, where's he's headed and who he is at this stage in his life.
"I've gotten my feet under me and been able to make some strides as a man," Long, 23, said.
Talent to burn
Growing up consumed by sports, Long was a beast in every sense of the sports colloquialism. He was too big to make weight to qualify to play Pop Warner football as a child. He stood 6-foot-7, 290-pounds when he resumed the sport as a sophomore at St. Anne's-Belfield School.
Long terrorized quarterbacks as a defensive end. He manhandled pass rushers as an offensive tackle. He even played some tight end. In baseball, his first love, the intimidating left-handed pitcher lit up the radar gun with a fastball in the mid-90 mph range.
He didn't just follow nicely in the footsteps of his older brother Chris Long, the Virginia defensive end who became the No. 2-overall selection by the St. Louis Rams during the 2008 NFL Draft, Kyle Long trampled over them.
LongPassPro.jpgView full sizeRivals.comKyle Long
Howie Long, an eight-time Pro Bowler during his 13 seasons with the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders, said he and Chris, 26, would often marvel to the point of laughter at the natural gifts Kyle possessed as a teen.
"I think Kyle is more gifted than I am, or was," Howie Long, 51, said.
While Chris, Howie Long said, had to grind to maximize his abilities, Kyle oozed talent.
"In many ways his greatest gifts maybe were his biggest curse because he was so talented physically," Howie Long said.
Kyle Long had a buffet of career paths to choose from. College football programs clamored for his services. His .500 batting average and 95 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched as a senior had college baseball coaches salivating. The Chicago White Sox selected Long in the 23rd-round of the 2008 MLB First-year Player Draft.
Long ultimately chose to play baseball at Florida State. A choice, it turned out, he simply wasn’t ready for.
Long said the college atmosphere and the freedom of being away from home for the first time proved too much for him to handle. He admittedly spent more time partying than studying and slipped into academic troubles.
“I didn’t have a great understanding of the commitment it took to be a student athlete at the next level,” he said.
Long eventually partied his way into legal troubles, as well. In January of 2009 he was arrested for driving while intoxicated at 2:01 A.M.
“His circumstances were all of his own doing,” Howie Long said.
Kyle Long places all of the blame on his shoulders.
“It was my fault I didn’t go to class,” he said. “It was my fault I didn’t go to visit my tutor. The list goes on and on and that falls on me…I guess I used alcohol as a crutch at one time.”
chrislongramsarms.jpgView full sizeAP PhotoSt. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. But his father, Howie Long, said little brother Kyle Long is the more gifted athlete of the two.
By the end of his freshman year Long knew he needed to reassess his life. He dropped out of school and returned home.
“My family and I decided it would best for me to stay home and figure out what was best for me as a person, not necessarily as an athlete,” he said. “I took some time and really got myself together. I wanted to go back into school and needed a fresh start.”
Ashamed, Kyle Long said he rarely left the house. While he wallowed in self-pity, his brother was making a name for himself in the NFL. Sibling rivalry wasn’t the issue as much as facing the fact his talents were going to waste.
How had he steered himself so wrongly?
Creating a new path
Months later, Long finally exited his funk and took classes at a local community college. He then decided he wanted back on the football field. He researched some junior colleges and ended up at Saddleback.
Kyle Long took to football again as if he’d never given up the sport. He also took time to try and grow up.
Saddleback coach Mark McElroy said Kyle Long is a fun person who has matured and is still maturing.
“I would have to say like all of us we’re in the process but he’s come a long way and I’m really proud of him,” McElroy said. “And I’m real proud to say I’ve gotten t know him.”
Long had a productive year as a defensive end in 2010 for Saddleback before moving to offensive tackle in 2011.
KyleLongStance3pt.jpgView full sizeRivals.comKyle Long
He made the switch in part to pave his own path at a position different than Chris and their father played.
Howie Long said he’s always pegged his son as a true offensive tackle, anyway.
“I’ve always found it to be more of a natural for him,” Howie Long said. “And I think that it allows him to get some separation from dad and brother.”
McElroy said the moment Long walked in the door he knew had a big time talent on his hands.’
“When he first got here you look at him and you’re like, ‘oh my gosh, he looks like an NFL football player,’” McElroy said.
And that’s where he sees Long ending up.
“My expectations are that you’ll see him drafted in the first couple of rounds of the NFL Draft,” McElroy said. “He’s 6-8, 300 pounds, quick as a cat, athletic and he plays with an attitude. Oregon’s going to love him.”
Choosing the Ducks
Kyle Long's play soon drew suitors. Long, rated a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, received offers from Arkansas, Florida State, Tennessee and UCLA, to name a few.
Kyle Long and his parents, who also have a third son, Howard, 21, visited Oregon’s campus in December and came away impressed with the program, facilities and academic support system.
“It’s just a pretty remarkable place,” Kyle Long said.
Helped by a strong relationship with Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, Long committed to Oregon on Dec. 18. He will sign a letter of intent Wednesday and plans to enroll in the summer after completing his Associates Degree in the spring.
Oregon will lose two senior offensive linemen, including left tackle Darrion Weems. Long hopes to compete for that position. He has one year of eligibility remaining but is hoping to petition for a second.
“I feel like I can go right in and hopefully make a fairly seamless transition in that [spread-option] offense,” Long said. “We ran a similar style of offense at Saddleback.”
howielongraiders.jpgView full sizeAP PhotoFormer Los Angeles Raiders star and Hall of Famer Howie Long said he cares more about his son Kyle Long developing as a person than as an athlete.
Howie Long, an NFL studio analyst for Fox Sports, said his son’s athleticism makes him an ideal for operating in space. Oregon’s no-huddle, spread-option offense requires nimble linemen who can move quickly from play to play and do plenty of blocking in the open field, especially on screen plays, a staple of the offense.
"He's a great fit for what they do," Howie Long said.
If that fit translates into success, coupled with the Long's athletic genes, someday, maybe, Kyle Long and Chris Long could meet face-to-face on an NFL field.
Kyle Long said he has literally dreamed about such moments. But they were more like nightmares because, as he put it, his brother is a “machine” on the field.
“I think about that a lot,” Kyle Long said. “If I were be able to do that I think it would be an awesome day for both of us. But that’s so far fetched right now. Pie in the sky. I’m still in junior college.”
But not for long. He's set to soon play for the Ducks. And more importantly to his parents, he’s on the right path as a person, as well.
“He had to find himself and to his credit, on his own he got back on track,” Howie Long said. “And he had to take what I would consider to be a different path, maybe a more humbling path and that makes where he is right now all the more rewarding.”
Re: OT Kyle Long
Nice Read. Hope he makes it to the NFL someday. Any idea if the 3rd brother plays football too?