The Chicago Bears selected Oregon offensive guard Kyle Long with their first pick in the NFL draft, 20th overall, and the first words out of Mr. Long’s mouth when speaking to the Chicago media were that he didn’t expect to be taken so high.
And those were also among the first words out of the mouths of most Bears fans, right after “Who’s Kyle Long?”
Long is the son of Raiders Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long and the brother of Rams defensive end Chris Long and is said to be the best athlete in the Long family.
Outside of these significant facts, however, Kyle Long doesn’t have as sturdy a football background as you might expect.
Kyle Long started his collegiate career at Florida State after turning a down a chance to play baseball for the Chicago White Sox but didn’t last long as a Seminole, derailed by a DUI and substance abuse. He then spent time away from the game before going to a junior college and then Oregon where he was a part-time starter and actually would still be at Oregon if it were up to him but the NCAA denied him another year of eligibility.
There are many instances in collegiate sports of guys wanting to leave for the pros only to be told they’re not ready. It’s not often that someone wants to stay in college and is told he can’t and then gets drafted a round or two higher than most expected.
Bears general manager Phil Emery said he has had his eye on Long for some time, saying he was the best offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl and is enamored of Long’s athleticism and versatility noting that he will start his career at guard but can easily, in Emery’s estimation, move to tackle on either side if needed.
Emery isn’t the only one who envisioned Kyle Long coming to Chicago. NFL draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr., of ESPN, had said he could see the Bears taking Long. Mike Mayock, of NFL Network, raved about the selection, saying, “He’s one of my favorite players in the draft. He’s one of the most aggressive offensive linemen. He’s a gifted kid.”
Long came across as humble, mature and determined when talking to the media after his selection saying he’s “…looking forward to the opportunity of trying to earn the respect of my teammates and hopefully be able to help the Chicago Bears.”
Oh Halas, we hope so, too.
The Bears have quality players at quarterback; running back, wide receiver and tight end and an innovative, creative offensive mind in new head coach Marc Trestman. So if they can block a little better it’s not crazy to say they’ll be 19-0 this coming season and be declared the Greatest Team in The History of God and Man.
Or maybe they’ll go 11-5, make the playoffs, and have an outside chance at the Super Bowl.
Offensive linemen are always popular picks on day one of the draft. The Kansas City Chiefs selected Eric Fisher, an offensive tackle out of Central Michigan, with the top overall pick and he was followed by Luke Joeckel, an offensive tackle out of Texas A&M, who went second overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. In all, nine offensive linemen were taken in the first round on Thursday night, the most ever.
Drafting big uglies to block for the glamour kids is usually the smart, safe move especially in a draft like this one, which offered no Andrew Lucks, Robert Griffin IIIs or Justin Blackmons.
Offensive line is the only position in which it’s easy, or at least easily conceivable, to switch a guy who struggles. It’s not uncommon for a player to start his NFL career at left tackle only to be moved to the right side and then maybe to guard. Not to say that all offensive line positions are interchangeable but there’s always a chance to find another spot for a big guy either because he’s floundering or the team is needing.
Other positions are a little more stagnant. Not many fellows enter the Sunday league as a receiver and then find they’re better suited for safety. Who is going to draft a quarterback in the first round and then a year or two or three years later decide he’d be better off at fullback? (Tim Tebow???)
It would be fun to see a 300-pound lineman struggle up front and then get moved to punter.
It would be a lot more interesting to see a punter moved to the line.
The 20th overall pick in last year’s draft was wide receiver Kendall Wright who went to the Tennessee Titans and caught 64 passes as a rookie. Number 20s in the previous decade: Adrian Clayborn, Kareem Jackson, Brandon Pettigrew, Aqib Talib, Aaron Ross, Tamba Hali, Marcus Spears, Kenechi Udeze and George Foster.
Of all those guys the only surefire Hall of Famer is Foster, a different George Foster, the baseball player. And, whoops, he’s actually not in the Hall of Fame. How the hell could George Foster not be in the Hall of Fame? Hitting 52 home runs in 1977 and having the most rockin’ sideburns outside of Wolverine should surely get one a bronze plaque in upstate New York.
Which brings us back to Kyle Long. Five years ago the Chicago White Sox took him. He said “no” but maybe there was something about Chicago that stuck with him. Kyle told reporters Thursday night that after his pre-draft visit with the Bears he had a “great feeling about Chicago.”
It’s December 29th. Snow is falling at Soldier Field and the NFC North crown is on the line. That “great feeling” is Kyle Long flattening a Packers defender as Matt Forte sprints toward the endzone. The roar of the crowd swallows all doubt.
Draft night: It’s a dream builder.