Former Saddleback star and NFL Pro-Bowler Kyle Long looks back fondly on Saddleback

Kyle Long (Courtesy Rivals.com)
Kyle Long (Courtesy Rivals.com)

By Conor Hedges
The Lariat (Saddleback College)

MISSION VIEJO - Prior to Saddleback College, Kyle Long was a two sport athlete in high school and was drafted by the Chicago White Sox, but turned down that offer to pursue an offer to play football at Florida State. After some legal trouble in his lone year at Florida State, Long came across the country to continue both his football and academic career at Saddleback College. He then headed to Oregon for one season before being drafted into the NFL. The three time Pro Bowler spent 7 seasons in the NFL playing for the Chicago Bears retired this offseason at the age of 31.  

Long comes from a huge football family who has great success of their own. Long’s father is NFL Hall of Famer, Howie Long who played his entire career of 13 seasons in the NFL for the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders where he won one Super Bowl and added many other career achievements. Howie has been a longtime analyst on Fox Sports. Long’s older brother, Chris Long played 11 seasons in the NFL where he won two Super Bowls with the Patriots and Eagles before retiring after the 2018 season. 

“Kyle is one of the best athletes I’ve ever come across in my coaching career,” said longtime Saddleback football Head Coach Mark McElroy. “Besides his work ethic and skillset, Kyle is a very loyal guy. With no question, he would give the shirt off his back to anybody.”

Following in the footsteps of his father and older brother was something Kyle did on the way to his career in the NFL, but it was the people and experiences that made his path more unique than others. While Long has had great success in his young life, he credits his time playing football and going to school at Saddleback College as one of the biggest reasons to getting him where he is today.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Saddleback?
“I’ve always felt at home at Saddleback even before I knew where it was on the map. I was born in Southern California but moved to Virginia when I was 5 years old and when I came across the country. I made the most of my opportunities like so many kids and adults that end up going to Saddleback who wanted to further their education. I loved how it’s not a huge school but it’s big enough for you to fit in and everybody has a place there. What was really unique to me was the hands on approach, the personal relationships you can develop with your professors and faculty. I remember the office hours were great for me to receive help with my schoolwork. Lastly, I loved that Saddleback has a family aspect, a ton of the faculty and staff went to school there and played sports there and you can tell how much pride they have for the college.”

What stood out about your time playing football for Saddleback? 
“It was the life lessons along with the teammates and coaches that made my time at Saddleback memorable and a place I’ll never forget. Some of my lifelong friends, guys that will be in my wedding, went to school with me at Saddleback. Those guys treated me like any other kid and I loved them for that. Like anything else, football is like chutes and ladders. Football is a line of work and there’s rank like the military where you want to work your way up and some guys don’t work their way. A big part of football is academia and you can’t get your foot in the door unless you get through the halls of school. Saddleback taught me just that and I’m thankful for the path that I took to get me where I am today. I also haven’t played with a better collection of guys in my entire football career. The diversity of guys from all over the country trying to make a name for themselves is what I loved about that team and was an incredible thing to be a part of.“

How influential was the Saddleback football staff in your playing career?
“God Bless Head Coach Mark McElroy. He’s the biggest reason why I played in the NFL, aside from my family and work ethic. McElroy has been so influential to my life and countless others at Saddleback. He convinced me to come play at Saddleback and asked me what position I wanted to play and I told him that I wanted to chase quarterbacks. Steve Crapo, the defensive coordinator was fired up to have me as a new nuclear weapon on defense. However, I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t follow rules or assignments correctly so I ended up on the bench as a backup. Crapo made me understand that I was no different than anybody else on the team and do everything correctly. He completely changed my outlook and I have been exactly that way ever since he did that and I thank him for that. I always talk crap to him now and tell him that he benched an All-Pro. McElroy jumped at the fact to claim me off the bench as one of his own as a left tackle was needed on the offensive line. From day one, it was obvious that the offensive line was where I was supposed to be.”

What advice do you have for Saddleback football players?
“Junior college is a viable option so make the most of your time. It gives you so much more pause on life and you can just figure out exactly how you want to navigate your life. Opposed to having a four year, rinse and repeat system. The advice that I would give to those playing at Saddleback right now would be to expand outside of football as much as you can. Get your hands dirty and learn to do a lot of different things. Football is a small window in your life and life is a lot longer than you think. There’s going to be a lot of time once football ends. Choosing majors is always something that is important if you’re seriously considering working towards going professional. I’m not a numbers person and not good at math or science but really wish that I would’ve gone to school for business. At the end of the day, you’re going to have to outsource a ton of people to do jobs pertaining to finances. It’s also very valuable to be a people person and make relationships with many people along the way.”