By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Feb. 25 2008
INDIANAPOLIS — His father, Howie, was a Hall of Fame defensive lineman with the
Oakland Raiders. His brother, Kyle, is a fire-balling 6-foot-7 pitcher headed
to Florida State to play baseball.
Meanwhile, Chris Long is holding up his end of the bargain in the family. The
defensive end from the University of Virginia could be the first player taken
in the NFL draft. At worst, he's a top five pick who should receive strong
consideration from the Rams at No. 2 overall.
The Rams desperately need sacks from their defensive end position. Long isn't
what you'd call a natural pass rusher, but he still managed 14 sacks last year
for the Cavaliers, tied for third best in the nation.
"I don't think (pass rushing) is his forte," said Billy Devaney, the Rams'
executive vice president of player personnel. "But against the run, the guy
will be a force. He's an effort pass rusher. Every play you've got to block him
to the death. And if you don't, if you let up, that's where he's going to get
his sacks from.
"A lot of guys operate that way. We had a kid in Atlanta, Patrick Kerney, who
was a lot like Long. He's a try-hard guy. He's a good athlete, but he's
Now with Seattle, Kerney led the NFC and was second in the NFL in sacks last
When asked to describe his pass-rush skills, Long said, "Relentless. I like to
use my hands. There's so much I can improve on there."
When all is said and done, the Rams may have Louisiana State defensive tackle
Glenn Dorsey as their highest-rated player in the draft. But Long is growing on
them. The more tape they watch, the more they like him. Lining up Long wide and
telling him simply to rush the passer wouldn't maximize his skills. But Long
brings a lot of versatility in his 6-3, 272-pound frame.
At Virginia, he played end in a 3-4 scheme. The Rams used a fair amount of 3-4
alignments under defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, particularly over the
second half of last season.
"(Long) is as NFL ready as you can be from a 3-4 standpoint," said Kevin
Colbert, director of football operations for the Pittsburgh Steelers. "He plays
a very difficult technique and he does it very well, so he's a perfect 3-4
defensive end. Could he stand up and be a linebacker? Absolutely. He's, I'd
say, rare for a college defensive lineman, especially more specific to a 3-4
Playing in a 4-3 scheme shouldn't be much of a stretch, either, and Long even
could be moved inside in some passing situations. As much as Haslett likes to
move personnel around in the Rams' front seven, Long could be a good fit. And
there's no substitute for effort, particularly in the NFL.
"I don't think of myself as doing anything extraordinary with my effort," Long
said. "I think that's just the way football is supposed to be played — at a
high speed. I'm not a guy who does things half-speed well. So it's been pretty
natural for me to go that fast."
Long's father, Howie, was that kind of player for the Raiders.
"My dad taught me to work hard, and to be the same guy every day," Long said.
"If that's going 100 miles per hour and working hard, then that's what I'll do."
Still a high-profile figure in sports because of his work as a television
football analyst, Howie has stayed in the background during his son's football
"It's not his style to want to steal the spotlight from his sons," Long said.
"I have two little brothers, and he does the same with them. He takes the back
"Everybody has a time, and this is our time. I've said, 'Dad, you're an old man
now. It's not your time any more.' He's done a great job with that, and I am
grateful. I've matured to the point that now I am comfortable sharing that
It was quite a 2007 season for Long. He was the Atlantic Coast Conference
defensive player of the year, won the Ted Hendricks Award as college football's
top defensive end and had his jersey retired at Virginia.
But he still has to share the spotlight, and not just with his father. Younger
brother Kyle — a promising prospect at offensive tackle — has opted for
baseball over football.
"He doesn't have to get hit playing baseball," Long said. "He's throwing 96
mph, he's a lefty. It seems like a no-brainer to me. I just hope I can live in
his condo, if I fall on hard times or something."