Rams heavy hitter Chris Long on football, family and making every hit count.
One big hit. That’s all it takes to change the tone of a football game—or a team’s season. Until Sam Bradford got carted off the field with a torn ACL in October, defensive end Chris Long and his Rams teammates were talking exponential growth potential for their talented young team. The midseason crisis forced Long—who, at age 28, is one of the team’s veterans—to step up his game.
Long is luckier than most—his go-to guru for all things football happens to be his father, former Raiders hall of famer and current Fox Network NFL studio analyst Howie Long. And his strongest mentor role may just be with his younger brother Kyle, a rookie with the Chicago Bears.
Long led the Rams in sacks the past two years; as of press time, his career total stood at 47.5 sacks and 165 tackles. The 6-foot-3-inch defensive lineman is living up to the potential the Rams saw in him back in 2008, when they drafted him out of Virginia in the first round, and again in 2012, when they restructured his contract through 2016. The team agreed to pay Long $58 million to ensure he’ll spend his prime tackling years in the Gateway City.
When ALIVE caught up with Long to talk football and family, he downplayed the numbers. He’d rather focus on staying at the top of his game physically and mentally. Do that, he believes, and the production will take care of itself. It appears to be working. According to Long, “Now is the best time in my career.”
ALIVE: The Rams have a young teamÛÓat six years into your career, you’re the player with the longest tenure.
Chris Long:It’s weirdÛÓit does make you feel older than you are. It took some getting used to. When I came into the league, the team was really old. Some of my best friends were 12-, 13-year veterans, and when they left, it was a big change.
ALIVE:Now you’re in a mentor role.
CL: I haven’t seen it allÛÓit’s only my sixth yearÛÓ but I try to be helpful to some of the younger guys. Sometimes that’s just going about your business and hoping they can pick up some of your work habits. Lead by example.
ALIVE: And who are your role models?
CL: I look up to my dad. I trust him more than anybody else when it comes to pretty much anything. I have some great coaches at the Rams, but also just having my dad, who’s been through what I’ve been through and pretty much seen everything I’ve seen as a professional in a similar position, is really valuable to me. I also really trust a couple of the guys I used to play with here: James Hall, La’Roi GloverÛÓwho’s luckily working for the RamsÛÓLeonard Little and Fred Robbins. Those guys were instrumental in [my improvement].
ALIVE: Give us an example of how your dad has shared his experience.
CL: It can be hard to come to work when you’re losing. We take a lot of pride in what we do on the field, and discipline is huge if you’re not playing up to your standards as a team and as an individual. Having that person to talk to during the tough times and remind you to weather the storm, just play your hardest and hold yourself to the highest standard no matter what’s going on around youÛÓthat was big for me.
ALIVE: He was on the defensive line during his playing days. Was he instrumental in your choice of position?
CL: No, he didn’t think I was good enough or athletic enough to play D end. He thought I was an offensive guard. We laugh about that sometimes now.
ALIVE: What memories do you have of your father’s playing days in the ’80s and early ’90s?
CL: When I watched him play, my parents minimized it. He was just my dad; he wasn’t anything special. It helped keep you grounded in the family, but I kind of wish I’d paid more attention to what he was doing, because I had an opportunity to meet a lot of cool people, a lot of great players. I remember one time, [I was about 7 years old], he was playing in the AFC championship game. I was at a friend’s house and it was on TV, but we went and played NHL hockey on Sega Genesis.
Photo credit: Wesley Law