Lately, I’ve done a lot of work away from the stat-analysis point of view with the Chicago Bears. While the numbers and predictions are always fun to play with, it’s also beneficial to take a glance into the lives of the players, how they got here and what the had to overcome to be who they are.
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It’s these types of reads that give us a reason to relate to some of the greatest athletes in the world. It shows that they are human, and, like most of us, have obstacles to get through in order to reach their goals. They weren’t born football players. They are humans that eat, sleep and live just like the rest of us, only with extraordinary athletic talents.
Kyle Long for one, went through troubles of his own on the way to the NFL.
The Bears’ Pro Bowl offensive guard’s story starts off in a different athletic realm: the baseball diamond. In high school Long was not nearly as fond of football as he was of baseball, where he was a top-prospect coming out of high school.
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Originally drafted out of high school by the Chicago White Sox in the 23rd round of the 2008 MLB Draft, Long decided it was best for him to go unsigned and play baseball at Florida State.
Before even stepping foot on the pitcher’s mound at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee, Long was arrested for a DUI at the University of Virginia.
The party-hard atmosphere that famously surrounds FSU was getting the best of the young Long.
“I spent probably more time out and about partying and being social than I did in the batting cage, in the bullpen or the classroom,” Long said to Jake Flannigan of CSN Chicago. “That became my life.”
January 24, 2014; Ko
Following a four-month stay at a substance-abuse program in Arizona, Long felt it was time to get back on the gridiron.
At age 21, Long enrolled at Saddleback College in California–just outside of Anaheim–to play defensive end just like his brother and dad.
Playing on the defensive side of the ball didn’t work out for him, recording just 16 tackles in his first year. He needed to change. His newly-discovered football dreams were depending on it. Long decided to switch to the other side of the trenches. His play was worthy of a scholarship offer from the University of Oregon.
Long had one year of Division I football to prove he was an NFL-caliber player. He served as a rotational player for the west coast powerhouse, until an injury to Mana Greig opened up the left guard position.
Again, Long’s performance earned him looks from scouts, and the Bears eventually drafted him with the 20th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Incredibly, Kyle Long has went from being a future-MLB prospect, to a man in a substance-abuse clinic, to a football player at a California, to an offensive lineman at Oregon–all in a span of roughly four years.
Now, he is a two-time Pro Bowler and one of the leaders on the Chicago Bears’ offensive unit.
In the interview with Flannigan, Long called football his “savior.”
“Football is the cradle. Football is like my crib, it keeps me fenced in.”
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