Q And A With Football Offensive Coordinator Chuck Long
March 2, 2010
Chuck Long is entering his first year as the offensive coordinator at Kansas. Long grew up in Illinois before becoming a Heisman Trophy runner-up as a quarterback at Iowa and spending nine seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions (1986-89, 91-94) and Los Angeles Rams (1990). He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Long’s coaching career has included time as an assistant at Iowa (1995-98) and Oklahoma (1999-2005) and as head coach at San Diego State (2006-08). While coaching at Oklahoma he worked with a Heisman Trophy winner in Jason White and a Heisman finalist in Josh Heupel.
Long and his wife Lisa have five children, Lindsay, Samantha, Nathan, Zachary and Maddy.
Q: When you were playing football, basketball and baseball at Wheaton North High School in Illinois, which was your favorite sport and why?
Long: My favorite sport was baseball initially. Then it was basketball and football was third on the list. As time went on football ended up being in first place basically because that is where the scholarship offers were. I always wanted a chance to play at a big university and when you grow up in Big Ten country that is what you aspire to do – to play in the Big 10.
Q: This past season the Heisman Trophy race was the closest race in history as Mark Ingram edged Toby Gerhart by 28 points. The previous closest vote was when you were runner-up to Bo Jackson by just 45 points in 1985. What were your thoughts at the time of your runner-up finish and now?
Long: First off, records are made to be broken. It took 25 or years or so. It was good that that happened finally. I am more famous for finishing second than most the first-place finishers. I am just kidding. It was good to see that record broken finally… I was invited to New York (in 1985) and I just thought o.k., I am invited. Then the media started to talk about how close it might be. It finally donned on me going down the elevator to the announcement room. I was with my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife. I had a tuxedo on and she had a dress on. She turned to me and said ‘do you have a speech ready in case you win this?’ I said ‘no I don’t.’ It was hard to fathom, to get your arms around at the time. She said ‘you better get something ready’, so I just scrambled in my mind just in case. It was never something I thought about. Our dreams were to win the Big 10 and win the Rose Bowl. Those were my dreams as a kid.
Q: You had the fortune of playing in five bowl games as a player, something nobody else has ever done, and then have coached in nine bowl games. What are the positives for the student-athletes and coaches in the bowl system?
Long: I love the bowl system. I believe they should keep it. It is hard to do two things. If they go to a playoff all of those bowl games would go away. I would hate to see that. What it does for student-athletes is number one, you basically have 34 or so teams go out with wins. They go back to their hometowns and celebrate. You just feel good. For recruiting purposes it is good. It is good for donors. It generates a lot of interest and enthusiasm. I would hate to see it ever go away.
Q: What did you learn in your experience as a head coach at San Diego State that helps you now?
Long: You learn how to deal with people. You learn how to budget your time wisely, how to organize, how to prioritize. Many of the issues for a head coach are non-football related, non X and O related. You have to learn how to prioritize those things because they are important.
Q: What is the best part of college football for you as a coach?
Long: I love being in a college town again. We didn’t have that at San Diego State. It was a city. Here the whole town is behind you and you can feel that. You feel that atmosphere. It is great for young student-athletes to be a part of that. I like being able to mentor young men. To be in charge of a position and to watch young men grow in their four or five years. There is nothing like that feeling.
Q: What is the best day you ever had in football?
Long: There are two of them. One was winning a state championship in football in high school. The other was beating Michigan with a last second field goal. We were number one in the nation and they were number two and we played them at home and beat them on the last second field goal. That was one of the great moments in terms of the crowd. It was complete mayhem. It was like a Hollywood ending.
Q: If you weren’t in football, what do you think you would be doing?
Long: I would probably be in the business world. I got my degree in business marketing and had some opportunities, but I always wanted to coach and stay in the great game of football. I have had more satisfaction coaching young men than I ever did as a player. That is a true statement.
Q: Who have been the biggest influences for you in the sport of football?
Long: Jim Rexilius, my high school coach; Hayden Fry, my collegiate coach, and my father.
Q: You and your wife Lisa seem to be very involved in community service. Talk about those experiences and why you both do them.
Long: We have always been a part of community service and part of giving back. That is very important to us. It started with me with my brother, who was born with cerebral palsy. Our family has always been involved with organizations associated with that condition. My wife has taken it to another level. She has been on the board of several things.
Q: What do you like to do in your limited free time?
Long: My free time is spent with my kids and doing whatever I can do with my family. Coaching is a very demanding profession. Anytime you can get free time, you spend it with your family. I don’t play much golf. I don’t have any hobbies. It is all about the kids and being a part of their lives. They are involved in sports. Quite frankly my time is spent running them around town.