Jeff Long Clearing The Way For The Offense

 

 
 

Oct. 12, 2000

If ESPN's Kenny Mayne were to describe Utah State offensive lineman Jeff Long, he might simply say, "Jeff Long. He's tall."

At 6-9, Long is tall. Always has been. But what might surprise some people, is the fact that the 6-9, 309-pound offensive tackle is extremely athletic. Always has been.

"Ever since I was a little kid," Long said about the start of his athletic career. "I started out playing baseball and then football started and then basketball, roller hockey and skiing. I was always into athletics."

"I was always tall," he explained. "I was skinny, but I was tall. I was always good at baseball. I had skills for that game. My dad was always a big football fan, so I was interested in playing that."

Baseball was his first love and he continued that interest through high school where he played all of the infield positions, including pitcher. One can only imagine how intimidating it was for prep batters in suburban Denver to step to the plate with Long on the mound. At just 60 feet and six inches away, when the 6-9 hurler stepped towards the plate it must have appeared as if he was handing the ball to the catcher.

Athletic? He played wherever he was needed on the baseball field. Athletic? He was also a member of the school's basketball team. Athletic? Not only did he play offensive line in football, he also saw action on defense as well as at tight end. Athletic? Oh yeah, he was his team's punter in high school and at Mesa State before he transferred here. At Mesa he averaged 38.4 yards per punt.

"I punted in high school," Long said. "I didn't get to punt in little league, because I was too heavy (to leave the line), but I started punting in high school and then at Mesa and I like to mess around here." Could be an interesting play in the playbook with the old offensive tackle punt.

Athletic? He loves to snow ski, water ski and jet ski. Not bad to have that kind of mobility at 6-9.

After his prep career ended at Horizon High School just outside of Denver, Long found his way to Mesa State, a four-year college in Grand Junction, Colo., where he lettered for two years.

"The coaches got fired at Mesa and I wanted to move on," Long said. "My old coach went to Rhode Island and wanted me to go there, but it was too far. He helped me with contacts around here."

When Utah State offered him a chance to continue his football career, he jumped.

"I love the surroundings," Long said of Logan. "It is pretty secluded up here and I am a mountain guy. I like the seclusion and there is not as much traffic as there is in Denver. There is a ski area 30 minutes away, but I don't get to visit too often."

The business management major isn't sure what his future plans are after graduation, but he would love to continue playing football if the opportunity was there. Otherwise it could include putting his degree to work back in Denver or possibly Utah.

Away from the field, Long said he spends time with friends, his girlfriend, watches football and plays video games as well as studying, "but I have to do that." In addition to his college textbooks, Long also studies the game of football.

"His strengths are his intelligence," said USU offensive line coach Jeff Hoover. "He picked up what we were doing extremely fast. He learns the game. He understands the game. He looks at the plays and looks at the defenses with an educated mind. He doesn't just know what he is doing, he knows what the people around him are doing. That and his intensity, how excited he gets on game day, are probably his two biggest strengths. He is smart and when he gets there he lays a lick on you."

Long agrees.

"I am a thinker," he said. "I try to predict what my guy is going to do. I am always looking at that guy trying to figure out if he is going to be pinching (inside) or what he is going to do. I also like pass protecting and keeping him out of the quarterback's face."

While Long enjoys the mental and physical challenges of the game, what drives him most is the sheer joy of playing football.

"I think it is the excitement," Long said when asked what his favorite part of playing football was. " I love getting into the game. It is intense. The crowds. I think it is everything about football that I love. It is a team sport, not an individual sport. I like the competition. I am a competitive type person."

That competitive spirit and his work ethic helped Long earn a starting spot at right tackle before the season started.

"I love coaching Jeff," Hoover said. "From the first day I got here, he has been thirsty to learn. He has been extremely attentive and intense and willing to buy into the things we are trying to do here. He has improved more than anyone else (on the offensive line) since we have gotten here. I have said it 100 times, the sky is the limit on what he can do. He is an extremely hard worker. He is intense and plays the physical style of play you need to play to be successful as an offensive linemen. I wish he wasn't a senior."

The Jeff Long File 6-9, 309, Sr., OT Thornton, Colo. (Horizon High School/Mesa State)

* At 6-9 he is tied as the second tallest player in USU football history behind current teammate James Newton, who is 6-10. * Started the New Mexico State game last year. * Redshirted in 1998 after transferring from Mesa State. * Played one season at Mesa State, starting on the offensive line and punting. * Played football, basketball and baseball at Thornton and Horizon High Schools. * Born Oct. 10, 1978 in Thornton, Colo. * Major is business management and philosophy. * Father played football at Northern Colorado.

 

 

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