Chris Long is a football legacy but has somehow avoided the label. In any conversation about Peyton Manning, his father Archie is bound to come up. Chris is the son of Hall of Fame Raiders defensive end, Fox analyst and Radio Shack pitchman Howie Long. It’s easier for Chris’s brother Kyle to avoid the label because he plays offensive guard which is often a position of anonymity among the media. Chris plays the same position as his dad and yet the only time the comparisons ever came up was during the draft.
His career to this point is fairly accomplished. He’s recorded 63.5 sacks, a two-time Pro Bowl alternate and was instrumental in the Patriots Super Bowl XLI victory. For Rams fans, it stung to see him win a title with the Patriots but understood it was severance for years of toiling on bad Ram teams. However, he made major headlines at the beginning of the 2017 season when he elected to give away his salary with the Philadelphia Eagles to a different charity every week. Many were taken aback at this because it is not what people consider typical behavior from a professional athlete. For Chris Long, this is exactly the kind of player he’s always been.
When Long was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2008, he bristled when then-coach Scott Linehan named him a starter. He believed he needed to earn his place on that defense despite it not being a unit or world beaters. Sure enough, he earned his way into a starting job and was later named to the All-Rookie team. He quickly became a leader eventually earning a lucrative extension in 2012. In fact, he became almost as beloved as running back Steven Jackson. In 2015, he and teammate William Hayes engaged in an experiment to see if they could be homeless for a day. They did so in response to the uptick in the St. Louis homeless population.
In addition to bringing light to the real experiences of the homeless and subsequent work after the fact, he started the Chris Long Foundation. The foundation functions as a way to fund the Waterboys.org group which builds water wells in East Africa. Following the 2016 season, the Rams parted ways with Long because injuries piled up and they wanted to create cap space.
Of course, Long was snatched up by Bill Belichick and not only did he play a full season but he flourished. He had four sacks and 35 tackles as a rotational player on the defensive line. His off-the-field contribution came in the form of his support for former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick was maligned for kneeling during the National Anthem. Many in the media were quick to bash Kaepernick but Long stood up for him when few would. In an interview on ESPN Radio Long not only went on record to defend Kaepernick but discussed the racial divide in America.
Following Super Bowl XLI, Long signed a two-year deal with the Eagles and made the bold move to donate his entire 2017 salary to different charities. Specifically, he provided scholarships to students in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virgina following the violent protests. Long and his wife Megan O’Malley are passionate about allowing the disadvantaged youth an opportunity to get a quality education. They started the Pledge 10 for Tomorrow Foundation which works in multiple communities across the country.
Long’s career started as a second-overall pick in charge of a rebuilding team to being a sage journeyman. At 32 he is once again a key piece on a championship-level team. He strip-sacked Jared Goff in a game that led to them getting home-field advantage. In the NFC Championship, he caused Case Keenum to fumble leading to a barrage of Eagle points. Now the Eagles are in the Super Bowl and a second ring would give him more rings than his dad.
In a time where people think athletes should stick to sports, Long and many other players are proving that activism doesn’t have to be political. All Long cares about his making a difference in his community and the world as best he can. If he wins a second ring it’d be a nice cherry on top of a career that’s beginning to be properly appreciated.