INDIANAPOLIS - The NFL future of former Oregon offensive linemen Kyle Long is unknown.
Will he be an NFL Combine winner and rise high in the draft or leave teams to pause wondering what do with him? Is he a guard in the NFL, or at 6-foot-6 with quick feet will he be developed into an offensive tackle? Will he land with college coach Chip Kelly with the Philadelphia Eagles?
For Long, none of that matters. What does is that he turned his life around and made himself an NFL Draft prospect.
Armed with a mid-90s fastball, Long's love out of high school was baseball. He was a 23rd round pick by the Chicago White Sox in 2008, but decided to attend Florida State.
Because of academic problems and a growing chemical dependency, Long washed out at FSU and looked to be another talent-rich athlete that wasted his natural talent. An arrest in 2009 for suspicion of driving under the influence turned Long's life around.
"I fought my way back, and I'm standing here today as somebody who's at the NFL Combine," Long said Thursday. "I'm pretty proud of the things I've done, and I don't plan on stopping making progress anytime soon."
Long referred to his run-in with the law as "the tipping point" for him. He moved to Southern California and started working at a surf shop.
"I didn't fit into any of the clothes in the shop, couldn't ride any of the skateboards, and none of the pretty girls wanted to talk to me," Long said. "Folding shirts was fun for a while, but I knew I needed to be in a football helmet somewhere."
Long landed at Saddleback College, also the home to another offensive line prospect, Menelik Watson, ironically, Florida State. At Saddlebrook, Long started as defensive end in 2010 before moving to the offensive line in 2011. He made the move partially to distinguish himself from Hall of Fame father Howie Long and brother Chris Long, the No. 2 pick of the 2008 draft.
After Saddlebrook, he played a season at Oregon, mostly lining up at guard but seeing some snaps at tackle. If the NCAA would have allowed it, Long said he would have played another year at Oregon.
Instead, now he's getting the attention plenty of attention from NFL personnel men. A head-turning Senior Bowl performance didn't hurt.
"Obviously he's done very well for himself." Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak said Thursday. "He's put himself in this position very quickly, which means he is a special athlete that you can do things like that. I'm sure he's gonna get a lot of attention, because a lot of teams like us are trying to figure out exactly where he's at in his development as an offensive lineman. I'm sure he'll be worked out quite often in the next six to eight weeks. But definitely he's someone that catches your eye and has done a nice job for himself, and it's a good thing to see."
Long is fully aware that when he interviews with the Titans, which is scheduled for today, and other teams that'll they'll ask about his past. But it's Long mission to keep his potential-packed life on the right path.
"We all face our own personal challenges," he said. "I struggled with some stuff off the field that I feel like not a lot of people have had to deal with. I picked myself up off the ground, really looked myself in the mirror, and made a decision that I would change for the better.
"You don't want to go back to that place, so you run as hard as you can in the opposite direction."
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