April 26, 2008 will be a day Chris Long will likely remember forever. It was the day every young football player dreams of. Long had his named called on draft day as the St. Louis Rams selected him with the second overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft. Long had just finished up his senior year at the University of Virginia, where the highly touted defensive end racked up 14 sacks in 13 games. His performance that season earned him several accolades, including ACC Defensive Player of the Year, the Hendricks Award, given to the top defensive end in the nation, first team All-ACC, and was voted a unanimous All-American. Long even received one first place vote for the Heisman, and ultimately finished 10th in the voting. The Rams had just come off a 3-13 season and hoped that drafting Long would help bring the franchise back to its winning ways.
Long would go on to spend the next eight seasons with the St. Louis Rams, finding himself quite often being a bright spot on several disappointing Rams teams. During his eight years with the Rams, the team went 39-88-1, with their best season record wise being 7-8-1 back in 2012. Long was an absolute warrior on the field, as he did not miss a single regular season game throughout his first six seasons with the team. He did not miss a game until the 2014 season, due to a lingering ankle injury. Over the 162 games Long played for the St. Louis Rams, he racked up 70 sacks, 333 total tackles, and 15 forced fumbles. Perhaps his best moment though, was his 45-yard scoop and score against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 10 of the 2013 season, the only touchdown of Long’s career.
Long was later released by the Rams, shortly after their treacherous move out west. Long then signed with the New England Patriots, who would make it to the Super Bowl that season. Long would become a part of history, as the New England Patriots erased the largest deficit in Super Bowl history (25 points) to beat the Atlanta Falcons in 34-28 in Super Bowl LI. While nobody, especially in St. Louis of all places, wants to admit they were happy to see the Pats win the Super Bowl, everybody was nonetheless thrilled for Chris Long to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Long then signed with the Philadelphia Eagles the following season, where Long did an incredible gesture. He announced he would donate his 2017 season salary to charity, with each week’s game check going to a different cause, an amazing gesture. Philly that season would go 13-3 and made a remarkable run to the Super Bowl. Along the way, Chris Long helped coin the Underdogs movement in Philly, marked by the dog masks, as the Eagles were not favored in any of their playoff games that winter. Philly made it to Super Bowl LII and beat Long’s former Patriots squad with another former Ram in eventual Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles.
Long then spent what would ultimately be his final season last year in Philly, where the Eagles once again made it to the playoffs before being ousted in the Divisional Round by the NFC South champion New Orleans Saints. Long then announced his retirement just a few days ago with this Twitter post:
Cheers. Been a hell of a journey. Eleven years and I can honestly say I put my soul into every minute of it. Highs and lows. I’ve seen them both and I appreciate the perspective. Gratitude and love to those who lifted me up.
For St. Louisans, Long will forever be remembered for being a man of great character. It did not matter what the Rams record was, what the score of the game was, whether it was the first or last game of the season, or whatever the situation may be; Long brought his best day in and day out every Sunday for eight seasons in the Lou. Was Rams football the most fun to watch from 2008-2015? No absolutely not, but we knew every game that #72 and then later on #91 was going to give it his all and we will forever thank him for bringing that work ethic and his outstanding character to our city for nearly a decade.
Not only was Long an outstanding football player in St. Louis, but what he did off the field will be something remembered forever. Chris deeply cared about this city, and showed it not only through monetary help, but with his time spent. Long started initiatives for youth programs in the St. Louis area and worked with such programs like Matthews Dickey Boys and Girls Club and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Long and former Ram William Hayes teamed up and made several contributions to St. Patrick’s Center and raised awareness for homelessness. Long and Hayes even went as far as to go undercover as homeless men, to try and gain perspective and talk to people who were homeless. The entire experience can be seen below:
Most notably, Long started the Waterboys Initiative back in 2015 while still with the Rams. This initiative has helped raise funds to build wells to supply clean drinking water to underprivileged communities in East Africa. Waterboys has since grown and now has backers in both the NFL and NBA, along with some other big supporters and to this day have funded 59 wells and served almost 215,000 people.
Chris Long will always be remembered as the guy who did things right, not just in St. Louis, but for anyone worldwide who has followed his career or felt his impact. Chris Long’s style of play and especially his personality will be missed in the NFL but will still continue to be enjoyed on Twitter. I think I speak for the entire city of St. Louis when I say I am incredibly grateful we had such an exemplary guy grace our city for eight years. Chris you are welcomed back to this city anytime and we would love to have you back soon. Thanks for everything Chris, happy retirement champ.