LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The journey first-round draft pick Kyle Long made in a very short time through some dark places makes the Chicago Bears believe the former Oregon guard is ready to step into the spotlight and fulfill his family legacy.
"Some people have a chip on their shoulder; I feel like I have a lumber yard on my shoulder," said Long, son of Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long.
Kyle Long does not have only a family football legacy to live up to. He has been a baseball player with major league potential. He has struggled in the classroom. There's been a DUI. He was a junior-college player who found a home at Oregon. And, as of this week, he is the 20th pick of the NFL draft after only five starts for the Ducks.
Long came to Halas Hall on Friday for the first time, one day after being selected by the Bears, and said he's ready to show his selection was no gamble.
"I feel like I've matured immensely over the last few years," Long said. "I feel like that's why I'm here today."
That wasn't the case when Long was drafted as a left-handed pitcher out of high school in Virginia in 2008 by the Chicago White Sox in the 23rd round. He opted instead for Florida State and a baseball scholarship but dropped out of school and had that DUI in January 2009. He failed academically at Piedmont Community College in Virginia, then went west to Saddleback Junior College in Southern California.
"Kyle was, at the time, immature beyond his years, and had never been away from home," said Howie Long, the former Raiders great who joined his son Friday.
Kyle Long regretted pursuing baseball almost from the start of his only Florida State season when he heard spring football practices on an adjacent field.
"When I was at Florida State I could hear the football helmets smacking and the whistles blowing and the coaches screaming, and there wasn't a lot of that on the baseball field, and I knew I was not in the right place," he said.
When Long returned to California and enrolled at Saddleback Community College, he tried to follow in his father's footsteps and those of his brother, St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long. He quickly found out he was more cut out to block than tackle.
"I was pretty bad at the defensive line," he said. "I thought maybe (defense) ran in the family but obviously it doesn't."
At Oregon, Long split time with freshman left tackle Tyler Johnstone before an injury opened up a spot at left guard with four games left in the regular season.
"I didn't ask them if I could play (guard)," Long said. "I told them I would be the starting left guard. I told them I was going to be starting against (Southern Cal). We had a guy go down and I jumped at the opportunity. I was hungry to play. It was a great opportunity for me and I felt like I took full advantage."
Long's draft stock rocketed after an impressive week at the Senior Bowl. The 6-foot-6 1/2, 313-pound tackle now has a chance to do what his father said he saw in him long ago.
"I've been saying this to his mom since he was 4 years old: He's kind of a freak of nature, physically," Howie Long said. "God just puts his hand on some people and says, 'You're gifted. What are you going to do with it?' When you throw 95 in high school and you're 295 (pounds) in high school and running 4.8 (40-yard dashes) and you can jump out of the building and dunk a basketball and all those things, the question then becomes what direction are you going and how important is it to you? It became obvious to us over the last few years it was very important for him."
The Bears haven't exactly had a recent history of selecting offensive linemen who succeed. Tackle Gabe Carimi lost his starting job after being taken in Round 1 in 2011 and might play guard. Chris Williams was another first-round tackle who failed. Neither was drafted by general manager Phil Emery, though.
The Bears hadn't chosen a guard in Round 1 since 1960.
"I can't be concerned about what happened in the past," Emery said. "I really can't, whether I was a part of that or if I wasn't. All you can focus in is the next pick, the next draft."
Howie Long found some irony in his son becoming a Bear. At one time, agent, Marvin Demoff helped engineer a trade that would have sent Howie from the Raiders to the Bears, and Oakland would have received a draft pick with which to select John Elway. It never came off.
"And to add even more interest to the story, Marvin Demoff represents both our sons," Howie Long said. "I said, 'Marvin, you finally got a Long in Chicago.'"