LOS ANGELES -- Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long may share a last name and bloodline with his father, Hall-of-Fame defensive end Howie, and his brother, current St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris. He also shares a dream of playing in the NFL, but Kyle Long has gone about things a bit differently. Howie was a four-year standout at Villanova, and Chris was selected second overall by the Rams in 2008 NFL Draft after establishing a dominant pedigree at Virginia. Kyle has taken a far more circuitous route.
Once a fireballing pitching prospect who got a full ride to Florida State because of his 96-mph fastball, Long fell from grace when academic issues that forced him to leave school, and a DUI in January, 2009 that landed him a night in jail, had him at a crisis point. He returned home to his family, sorted himself out, and enrolled at Saddleback Junior College in Mission Viejo, Ca. There, he switched from pitcher to defensive line, and the young man who was deemed too big to play Pop Warner football grew into a force as a 6-foot-7, 300-pound pass rusher. Eventually, Oregon came calling, and head coach Chip Kelly saw Long as an offensive lineman. He used his final year of college eligibility to play well at two new positions -- left guard and left tackle -- in one of the most complicated offenses possible.
With a new life, a new grasp on the game, and a chance to impress at next week's Senior Bowl in Mobile Ala., the younger Long is training at Travelle Gaines' gym in West Hollywood under the supervision of Gaines and former offensive line coach Tony Wise, who ran the lines for Jimmy Johnson at Miami and with the Dallas Cowboys, and most recently did the same for Dave Wannstedt at Pitt.
Now, the question is, how will a one-year Division I O-line prospect fare in the draft evaluation process? At 311 pounds, Long looks to take the scouting combine by storm, but as Wise told me, mastering the line -- especially at the next level -- is technique and leverage, not just size and speed.