Chris Long was one of the most talked about NFL players this season. Not only did he leave New England after winning a Super Bowl there at the age of 31, he decided to sign with the Eagles, a team that no one thought even had a chance at making it to the playoffs. And then he won a Super Bowl with them. Oh, and beat the Patriots in the process.
Long was a big part of the Eagles narrative — he played well, was outspoken on social media in support of the players protesting social injustice, and put his money where his mouth was. I spent the day with Long in October as he announced he was giving his last ten game checks to organizations that support educational equality (he’d already given the first six to fund scholarships at his private high school in Charlottesville). He encouraged fans to donate to what he called Pledge 10 for Tomorrow.
Soon after he won the Super Bowl, Long flew to Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. He makes the trip yearly to raise money for his charity called Waterboys, which funds wells in East Africa to increase access to clean drinking water. I caught up with him by phone to talk about his recent trip, his second championship ring, the Michael Bennett trade, and whether he’ll be playing football next year or hanging up his cleats.
So you just got back from climbing Kilimanjaro a week ago?
Chris Long: Last Tuesday, yeah. It was awesome. It was probably the most productive of the three years we’ve done the Conquering Kili initiative, because we had some of our bigger names. Vince Young, Tom Santi, Steven Jackson, Connor Barwin. Having Connor Barwin as an active player was huge, because it is a really big undertaking to say you’re going to go do that in the offseason. And Vince Young, who is obviously a big name, and carries a lot of weight down in Texas right now. Nate Boyer was able to get him involved.
Did everyone make it to the summit?
CL: All but two in our group made it to the top. We had veterans with us, including two amputees, John Arnold and Doc Jacobs. Doc was navy corpsman and a medic, so he has a good understanding of the human body. At one of the primary schools we visited, 2,100 kids in the morning run down the hill, get dirty water out of a creek that runs through the town, and use it for drinking water every day. And their classrooms are substandard in condition, so the exciting thing is we’re not only building a well there, but we’re completely revamping the campus and adding a medical center. It’s outside the scope of Waterboys, but goes nicely with Pledge 10. It’s supporting education not just in the States, but globally.
So Doc was there, and he spotted an infection that no one else had spotted in a girl’s hand. And because of his experience, he was able to encourage them to get her on antibiotics and likely save her a lot of trouble in the future, and possibly save her hand. The only reason Doc had to turn around at the last camp was because of bad altitude sickness at 16,000 feet. But John made it to the top, he’s an absolute stud. And Doc made the call at 16,000 feet because he didn’t want to slow us down, and felt that the selfish thing would be to push through. So that was really cool. It was an unbelievable trip.
You brought that dog mask up to the top, Philly fans must’ve loved that.
CL: Yeah, they liked that. You go up, you always bring something. The first time I ever summited, I brought a Virginia flag. This was years ago, and I didn’t have anything cool then. And last year when I went up, I brought some cool stuff for my son. And this year, with the Super Bowl and everything, I had the OG dog mask. The day one mask, the first one we ordered. I just was like, man, I’ll stick it in my bag if I can remember. On summit night I’ll bring it.
Wow, so that was the original mask you wore after the Falcons game?
CL: Yeah, me and Lane [Johnson] ordered two of them before the Atlanta game, and that was one of the two. So I guess nobody’s estimated or tried to predict how many are out there now in circulation, but I bet it’s a lot.
You should get that bronzed or something.
CL: Yeah, I’m definitely putting it in my man cave. I don’t know what kind of mount you put a mask on, it’s kind of an abnormal thing to have in your man cave. It’s become a meme.
Well I mean, I think that’s sort of serial killer behavior if you haven’t won a Super Bowl with it. I think if you’re just mounting masks in your man cave, there’s probably some weird stuff going on.
CL: Exactly, I’m totally with you on that. I feel creepy when it’s in my house and my son wants to put it on. I’m like dude, don’t get used to this.
So what does it feel like to win a Super Bowl against your old team after you made a bet that a lot of people at the time were skeptical about, when you left New England for Philly?
CL: First and foremost, whether it was against the Pats or anyone else, it was an absolute dream winning two Super Bowls back to back, let alone on two different teams. And then when you make a decision as unorthodox as saying you’re going to move on from biggest championship machine in pro sports, people look at you sideways. But at the end of the day, it was about my role and what I wanted out of football personally.
It’s a team game, but at the end of the day, you gotta be happy, and you gotta enjoy playing football every day. It’s too hard to do unless you enjoy it. For me, Philly gave me that opportunity scheme-wise, role-wise, with the people in the room. And just going out there and watching it evolve into a playoff team, then a team that could contend for a championship, and then getting to the Super Bowl, and the team we’re going to play is my old team, and LeGarrette’s old team? It was kind of wild. One of those things where you just can’t make it up.
And it was a good game! It’s crazy to have the games be that thrilling two years in a row.
CL: No doubt. One year you’re part of the 28-3 thing, and then the next year you’re part of what was like, you know, a Pac-12 shootout. If you weren’t on defense, it was one of the best Super Bowls of all time, and probably one of the most exciting ones to watch of all time. To be a part of both of those, and to know that I had a big role, and that everybody had a big role in getting us there, felt really good. A special year for the city and for the team. It’s something I know people will never forget around here. I certainly won’t.
What are your thoughts on Philly taking on Michael Bennett as another defensive end?
CL: They asked me about Mike before the trade, because I know Mike. And I gave him a glowing recommendation, because I really do think Mike is an awesome dude and a great player. He’s been as good an inside/out rusher as I’ve seen in my time in the league, one of my favorite guys to watch. His age doesn’t matter as much, because he plays with great technique.
So are you going to go back to Philly next year?
CL: I don’t know yet. I’m working something out right now. At 32, you have limited time left to play the game you love, so the role has to be exactly right for me. I can still play at a high level, and I’m hungry to play, but every player my age has to weigh how they want to go out. The 25-year-old me would tell the 32-year-old me to take the two rings and go start the next chapter in life, but it’s never simple when you still have gas left in the tank. We’ll have to see what shakes out. So short answer, I have no idea. I love Philly though. The city would make it hard to walk away.
How much money did Pledge 10 end up receiving?
Pledge 10 finished just shy of 2 million. It was successful; people were awesome about it. And getting to be a part of what Lane did with the Philly public schools, with donating the money from the underdog tees. Big winner year for educational causes on our team. So it was awesome.
Yeah, I saw that on Twitter you got the NFL to donate the proceeds from the underdog shirts they were selling.
CL: Yeah, the funny thing was that we got them to donate the proceeds, because I couldn’t believe that they actually tweeted it at me. I was like, why would I push a product as an alternative to the same product we’re pushing, where proceeds are going straight to charity? They didn’t think it through. But, to their credit, they rectified the situation immediately.
Everybody loves to pile on the NFL, but they did donate the proceeds and do the right thing. I’m like, if the NFL does do the right thing, and there’s still a bunch of fallout on social like, “They’re still assholes!” Then what’s going to make me do the right thing the next time? I was irritated by the heaping on. You’ve got to positively reinforce them. Interesting, that whole dynamic.
In Philly in October, you showed me some cool footage you filmed with your drone where you were blowing stuff up on your farm in Virginia. Any cool drone shit planned?
CL: I don’t have anything planned right now. I’m going to get this NFL team stuff figured out and then I’ll be able to map out my summer.
By NFL team stuff do you mean, like, your career?
CL: Yeah, I’m gonna get my career figured out, and then the most important career, which is drone cinematography, I’ll get that mapped out. I actually just landed a $250 job to shoot drone footage for this minor league baseball team. My buddy was like, want to shoot footage for the Charlottesville Tom Sox? And I was like yeah, I’ll do it.
Wow. So you’re going to be making $250 to shoot drone stuff?
CL: I think so.
Congrats on breaking into the industry.
CL: Thanks, dude.