Kyle Long: A Long Journey of Struggle Leads to Continued Success

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Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

“With the 20th pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select Kyle Long,” Roger Goodell read at the 2013 NFL draft. Whispers spread as people commented on the selection, many of them with the same question.

“Kyle Long?” They asked. “Who is that?” But they’re all getting to know Kyle Long as he’s helped the Chicago Bears start the season off on the right foot, helping to protect Jay Cutler and helping Matt Forte by clearing the way. The pick was considered risky given the fact that Long only had 11 starts for Oregon and finally everybody figured out who he was. “Oh, that’s Howie’s son isn’t it?”

The path to the right guard spot on the Chicago Bears offensive line was anything but easy. Long battled his way through several different colleges, struggling with character issues and finding himself. There was a time when he didn’t even play football after high school and followed his first passion, baseball.

“I used to always laugh,” Nate Collins, a Bears’ teammate and long-time family friend of the Long’s said. “I’d say to Chris: ‘This is your younger brother?’ He’s the biggest out of all of them. He’s bigger than their dad, bigger than Chris, bigger than Howie Jr. I used to laugh all the time because he was a baseball player. The guy looked like a football player.”

That was Kyle’s dream though, to be the 6’6” pitcher, zinging fast balls and hurling curve balls to the mound. Not only was that his dream but it looked like it was going to come true when he was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 23rd round of the 2008 MLB draft. However, instead of jumping to professional baseball right away, he decided to go play baseball at Florida State on scholarship, while getting his degree.

But Kyle never threw a pitch for Florida State. The freedom of being on his own for the first time led to failed classes and reckless decision making and shortly after, Long was arrested for a DUI. After being arrested Long left school and entered a four-month treatment program in Arizona to help put an end to his substance abuse problems.

“I was messing up off the field. I spent probably more time out and about partying and being social than I did in the batting cage, in the bullpen or the classroom. That became my life,” Long said. After making his mistakes long saw an opportunity to go back to football, which he had excelled at in high school.

“The day I got out of treatment I told my case manager that I wanted to play football again. I had a lot of pent up aggression and stuff I needed to release physically.” He knew it wouldn’t be easy but Long was finally ready to be serious and put the time and effort into football, a decision that he says changed his life.

Long knew he wouldn’t be able to get into a major university and he wanted to start at a junior college to help him focus. He decided to start his new beginning at Saddleback College, a junior college in California. His sophomore year he played defensive end but they decided to switch him to left tackle his junior year. Kyle dominated at this position helping the team go 8-3 while averaging 480.4 yards per game.

While he only started seven games he did enough to get noticed. The University of Oregon offered Kyle a scholarship, which he took and he began his senior year at tackle. However, the Ducks had a packed depth chart and Long wasn’t sure if he’d be able to play.

“I knew if I had one shot to put some film together as a starting offensive lineman in D-1, I might have a shot at going and playing somewhere next year. Somewhere, I could make a living at playing ball,” he said. And even though he was a left tackle when Oregon’s starting left guard was injured, he jumped at the opportunity.

The result was success. Finally things were going how Long intended and he continued to build on his success. Even though his request for an extra year in college was denied, he had earned a trip to the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, where he quickly caught scouts’ eyes.

See his NFL Draft Profile here:

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