January 3, 2009 marked a turning point in the life of former University of Oregon offensive lineman, Kyle Long.
The son of former Oakland Raiders star and Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long and younger brother of St. Louis Rams defensive lineman Chris Long, Kyle was pursuing a baseball career at Florida State University.
But he felt a change was necessary when he was arrested for driving under the influence.
“That was kind of the tipping point for me,” Long said. “It was the next day that I made the decision that I wasn’t going to be able to go back to Florida State University. There was some stuff that I needed to work on personally, and I took a self-inventory.
“I was able to start the process of recovery. It was early in 2009 that I made the decision to turn my life around. Nobody’s perfect. I still have a lot to learn; I still have a lot to work on, but I’m happy with where I’m at today.”
Dealing with what he referred to as a chemical dependency, Long found himself out of Florida State and in Southern California working at a surf shop. Then, he felt the need to compete again, and enrolled in Saddleback College, where he played football for coach Mark McElroy.
“I ended up getting recommended,” Long recalled. “I wanted to play football again, and I was working in a surf shop. I got a ride up there one day, spoke to Mark McElroy, and he told me the doors were open. I took full advantage.”
Long was happy to give up the surf shop gig and trade in that life for a career in football pads, especially, “when you don’t fit into anything at the surf shop.”
“You can’t ride any of the skateboards and none of the pretty girls want to talk to you,” Long said. “Folding shirts was fun for a while, but I knew I needed to be in a football uniform and football helmet somewhere.”
Following a two-year run at Saddleback College and a switch from the defensive to offensive line in 2011, Long transferred to Oregon.
Four years to the day after his DUI arrest, Long was anchoring an Oregon offensive line that paved the way for the Ducks’ 35-17 win over the Kansas State Wildcats in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl. The Ducks gained 385 yards of total offense on 69 plays -- an average of 5.6 yards per play -- in the win over Kansas State.
After restarting his athletic career more than 2,800 miles from where it started, Long noticed a change in himself.
“I’ve grown a lot as an individual,” Long said. “I was definitely immature and was not independent. I feel like I’ve grown up a lot as a man in the last couple years. I’ve had to take responsibility for some of the things that I’ve done. It was the worst thing and the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve been through hardship and have fought my way back. I’m standing here and I’m pretty proud of the things I’ve done. I don’t plan on stopping making progress anytime soon.
“You don’t want to go back to that place, so you run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. We all face our own personal challenges. I faced some stuff off the field that I feel not a lot of people have had to deal with. I had to pick myself up and really look myself in the eye, in the mirror, and make a decision that I was going to change for the better. There was a lot of stuff that I struggled with. I moved past that and I’m a stronger man because of it.”