Today marks just 75 days until the start of the 2023 season, meaning that today's installment of Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff will focus on the best player in franchise history to don the number 75, offensive lineman Kyle Long.
Kyle Long's path to the Chicago Bears
A native of Ivy, Virginia, Kyle Long attended St. Anne's-Belfield School where he participated on both the school's baseball and football teams. On the diamond, Long was a respectable ball player and was even drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 23rd round of the 2008 MLB Draft. However, Long was perhaps even more dominant on the football field, playing both offensive and defensive lines throughout his high school career. After being selected for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Long, who was a top offensive lineman prospect of his class, decided to commit to Florida State University to continue his football career.
After just a season of playing defensive line at Florida State, Long left the school, transferring to Saddleback College, a junior college near the birthplace of his older brother and NFL defensive end Chris Long. Coincidentally, Long's transfer to junior college almost directly lines up with his older brother being selected second overall in the 2008 draft. Nonetheless, Kyle Long enjoyed a short stay at Saddleback College, transitioning from defensive to offensive line, before transferring to Oregon, where he would continue his Division I collegiate football career.
Long managed to play only one season at Oregon after being denied an application for an extra year of collegiate eligibility. In his lone season, Long started in six of the team's 12 games, proving that he could progress as an offensive lineman, unlike his brother and father, both of whom were NFL defensive ends and the latter of course being Hall of Famer and NFL on Fox host Howie Long.
After Long's only season at Oregon, the offensive lineman entered the 2013 NFL Draft, where he was selected 20th overall by the Chicago Bears. Despite being a bit on the older side for a rookie at 25 years old, Long made an immediate impact in his first season with Chicago.
Kyle Long becomes perennial Pro Bowler with Chicago Bears
As a rookie, Long started all 16 of the team's regular season contests at the guard position, even earning Pro Bowl recognition by the end of the year. Long also made several all-rookie teams, including the NFL.com's list and Pro Football Focus's lineup. In his second season, Long turned in a similarly dominant season, starting in 15 of the team's games. By the end of the year, Long not only made it back to the Pro Bowl but was elected to his first All-Pro team.
In his third season, Long made the transition to right tackle. Long not only had experience at the position but had a frame that allowed him to kick out to the tackle position. At his new spot, Long's production remained steady and impressive, making his third Pro Bowl in three seasons after starting all 16 games during the year.
The following year, Long moved back to right guard, but suffered several injuries throughout the year, including a torn labrum that he played through and a severe ankle injury that cost him the end of the season. The next season, Long started the year healthy but was forced to finish the year on injured reserve after hurting his shoulder near the end of the year.
2018 brought Long a similar fate, as the lineman started the first eight games of the season before missing the end of the year with a foot injury. In 2019, Long missed all but four games after being sidelined by a hip injury early in the year.
Kyle Long's retirement and post-football ventures
Following the 2019 season, Long chose to retire from the NFL, in part due to nagging injuries that had halted his career over the past handful of seasons. After his retirement, the Bears made Long a free agent by denying the team option on his contract. Almost a year to the date after his release from the Bears, Long came out of retirement to sign a one-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. Unfortunately, Long was injured during OTAs and failed to see the field in Kansas City, and retired for good at the end of the year.
Long retired from the NFL at just 33 years old, and in the modern history of the NFL, the offensive lineman may be one of the biggest "what ifs" in terms of how great of a career he could have had if he were never injured, or at least just not as much. In his first three years, Long was a dominant and even versatile offensive lineman that excelled at the guard position as one of the league's strongest interior pass protectors.
Since his retirement, Long has stayed close to the game of football, serving frequently as a co-host or guess on his brother's podcast Green Light. Long, who is, unfortunately, the only NFL player in his family who never won a Super Bowl, also works with CBS, one of the main rivals of his father's NFL on Fox show.