Senior offensive tackle Kyle Long has certainly taken a circuitous route to Eugene. But he’s glad he made the difficult journey. Long, of course comes from a talented family lineage of football players beginning with his Hall of Fame father Howie – now an NFL analyst for Fox Sports. And Kyle’s older brother Chris, the 2nd overall pick of the St. Louis Rams in the 2008 NFL draft ( University of Virginia ) is quickly becoming an all pro player in his own right.
But according to both Howie and Chris, Kyle is the member of the Long family with the most overall athletic talent. “I think Kyle is more gifted than I am, or was,” Howie Long said in a recent interview. “In many ways his greatest gifts maybe were his biggest curse because he was so talented physically” The elder Long referencing the difficult path Kyle found himself on before landing in Eugene at the University of Oregon.
Because Long comes from a very public family, it was no secret his legal troubles found there way into the press when he was a freshman athlete ( Baseball ) at Florida State. A DUI arrest in January of 2009 after partying into the early morning hours. It was that moment and his difficulties in school that led him on a very different path. Long left Florida State embarassed and disappointed in himself. “My family and I decided it would be best for me to stay home and figure out what was best for me as a person, not necessarily as an athlete,” Long said. “I took some time and really got myself together. I wanted to go back into school and needed a fresh start.”
After taking that time off, Long decided football was the sport he wanted to play and decided to enroll at Saddleback Community College in Southern California. It was that time in junior college that Kyle Long found himself wanting to change his life. And that’s what brought him to the University of Oregon to play in Chip Kelly’s spread offense – an offense Long was familiar with while playing at Saddleback. “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.” The Long family lineage has always been on defense, however Kyle decided he wanted to pave his own career path on the offensive line – a position Howie thought his son was much more suited for. “I’ve always found it to be more of a natural for him,” explained Howie. “And I think that it allows him to get some separation from dad and brother.”
After the lengthy and difficult journey to Eugene, Kyle finally found himself in the lineup last Saturday as part of the Ducks offensive line. “It was everything and more” said Kyle after Monday’s practice. “Got a chance to run out of the tunnel with my team. It’s all a kid can ask for you know.”
Of course, the younger Long understands there’s much work to do to meet his own expectations. “It takes a few weeks and getting time with Coach Greatwood” say’s Long. “Looking at a lot of film,..just reviewing practice tape. Righting your wrongs and making sure you’re honest about the whole process and just coming in and taking it a day at a time.”
Like proud parents typically do, Howie and his wife Diane wanted to be there for their son’s first game in an Oregon uniform. When asked about his parents, Kyle smiled and confirmed both were at the game. “They were just so happy that I’m here” said Kyle. “They love it here. They love the fans,…they love the experience. They’ve been around football for a long time but mom and dad have never really been a part of anything like this.”
As for the future of Kyle Long, right now the NCAA is saying he only has one year of eligibility to play football for the Ducks. And though he’s petitioned for a second year and hopes his petition will be successful, he admits he’s simply concentrating on the here and now. “I just try to stay focused at the task at hand” says Long. “I’d love to have the option of another year, but as of now I’m just taking it one day at a time.”