Kyle Long with fellow teammates (Chicago Bears) at Pro Bowl media day
Whether at a fundraiser, fan meeting, or via Twitter, former Saddleback College Gaucho Kyle Long loves to interact with his fans. When the National Football League announced that Long would be named to the 2014 Pro Bowl, it came as no shock, since the all-star game is based on one-third of the fans’ vote.
The former Gaucho, 25, played for Saddleback in 2010-11 before transferring to the University of Oregon. Currently, Long is an offensive guard for the Chicago Bears. Initially selected as an alternate, he was invited to the game after San Francisco guard Mike Iupati was injured during the NFC Championship game.
“It was a larger than life experience,” Long said. “You grow up watching all of these really good players in the NFL… and then to have the opportunity to go play with them, and be in the same huddle with guys like Andrew Luck and Drew Brees… I was in football heaven, kind of.”
Long recalls being on the field with Cam Newton, the quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. Newton was among his favorites to play with, particularly finishing off a scoring drive.
“Cam is like, my size, with like a million dollar smile,” Long said. “He’s smooth, everyone wants to be Cam Newton. My job [was] to block for him, and we didn’t get in on the play, but he wasn’t down yet, so I just wrapped my arms around him and threw him into the end zone and we scored. It was pretty cool.”
The first-time Pro Bowler played as a defensive end for Saddleback in 2010 before switching to offensive line in 2011. He then played at Oregon as an offensive guard for the Ducks and was drafted in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears with the No. 20 overall pick. Long is the first offensive lineman to make the Pro Bowl from Chicago since 2006 (Olin Kreutz and Ruben Brown).
“I mean, everybody’s goal as a football player is to one day play in the Super Bowl and have the opportunity to get a Super Bowl ring,” Long said. “But if there’s a close second to that, it’d be going to the Pro Bowl, especially as a rookie.”
The game took place this year at the Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. After flying in from Manhattan Beach, Calif., Long’s trip was mostly business. However, for his friends he brought along, it was mostly pleasure.
“I’d get back from practice and going to all these fundraisers and stuff like that during the day and I’d get back at night and my buddy would be like, ‘yo, I hung out with this girl, she’s like a swimsuit model, she lives in Hawaii, she moved here from the states,'” Long said. “They did this hike at three in the morning to go and watch the sunrise, so it’s like a three hour hike or whatever, and you get to the top. It’s called stairway to heaven, I think, and you get up there… they went with a couple of really cute girls.”
However, swimsuit models and 3 a.m. hikes weren’t on the agenda for the football player. His priority was to rest before the big game.
“I get to do what I get to do, which is hang out with all these really cool players and experience all these things that nobody would ever really get the chance to do,” Long said.
During his trip to the island, Long posted live updates on Twitter. The active user also finds the social platform as a way to regularly connect with fans. His frequent interaction has many followers praising him for his humility. One had this to say on his Twitter account: “I love the fact that you’re as much of a fan as you are a player.”
Long is the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer defensive end Howie Long, and brother of St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long.
“There’s a lot of stuff that’s humbled me off the field. I’ve been through experiences that… have really forced me to appreciate what’s in my life and the things that are in front of me,” Long said. “It wasn’t too long ago that I was fighting for a starting position at Saddleback College.”
With only a few years of experience, Long demonstrated his strength to the Bears and started all 16 games during in his rookie year. In 2013, the Bears offense acquired 6,109 yards and 445 points, breaking franchise-records.
“You get what you give… I remember the guys that were really cool to me when I was little, that my dad played with, and I’ll remember those guys forever, and that’s the impression that I want to leave,” Long said. “I love the fans, I love being able to interact with the fans, ’cause at the end of the day, we’re all fans and we all love the game.”