The Untold Truth Of Howie Long

At his Hall of Fame induction speech in July 2000 (posted on YouTube), defensive end Howie Long put into context his accomplishments and standing in the history of professional football. Long was just the eighth player at his position to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. According to Pro Football Reference, Long was the 171st player inducted into the Hall, which seems like a big number until, as Long stated in his speech, you consider that over 18,000 men had played in the National Football League at that point.

Howie Long is a football legend, yet his post-career is an outlier when compared to other former players. Many retired football players either have trouble with adjusting to life after football or, in the most tragic cases, suffer from the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and their lives become severely hampered by the disorder. Players tend to find more success and enjoyment during their time in the NFL than afterward. Long transitioned seamlessly from an all-time defensive player to commentator, analyst and Hollywood actor. His post-pro sports career can be best compared to former greats like Charles Barkley in basketball or Phil Rizzuto in baseball, whose careers after pro sports almost overshadow their athletic careers. Long's journey from someone who did not have an interest in football to making his entire livelihood off the sport is a fascinating story.

Howie Long was a multi-sport athlete

The fact that Howie Long became an NFL player, let alone one of the best players of his era, is even more outstanding considering the fact he did not pick up football until he was a teenager. Most NFL players picked up a football five minutes after they learn how to walk. However, according to The Somerville Times, Long did not take up football until he was 14 years old.

Two major changes in Long's life led him to football: First, his size. Despite being called "Little Howie," because his father was even taller than he was, Howie Long was over 120 lbs when he was just 9 years old, says Sports Illustrated. Long preferred playing basketball, baseball and street hockey in his hometown of Charlestown, Massachusetts. The second change was at when he was 14 years old, Long moved to live with his uncle 40 miles away from his home. The change in scenery and his uncle's support led Long to finally take up football.

In high school, Long was a football, basketball and track star, the Pro Football Hall of Fame reports. Still, Long's doubts troubled him throughout high school. Although recruited by local Boston College for a one-year scholarship, Long decided to select Villanova University, which offered him a four-year scholarship instead. Long would excel on Villanova's football field, as well as graduate with a degree in communications and meet his future wife, Diane Addonizio, as The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote in 2014.

His children followed him to the NFL

It is the dream for many parents to have their children follow in their footsteps in their careers. For Howie Long, he not only had one child, but all three of his children, follow their father to professional football.

The eldest child, Chris Long, was one of the top players in college football. According to ESPN, Chris was drafted with the second overall pick in 2008 by the St. Louis Rams. Like his father, Chris played defensive end and spent 11 seasons in the NFL before retiring after the 2018 season. During his career, Chris won back-to-back Super Bowls as a member of the 2016 New England Patriots and the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles. In his final season, Chris won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award for his work off the field, as told by NFL.

While Chris became a defensive lineman like his father, Kyle Long lined up on the opposite side of the ball, becoming an offensive lineman. According to Pro Football Reference, Kyle made three straight Pro Bowls in his first three seasons. However, Kyle would suffer from multiple injuries over his next four seasons and would retire in 2020 at only 31 years old. He ended his retirement a year later and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. The youngest Long, Howie Jr., did not make the pros as a player, but now works in player development for the Las Vegas Raiders, Player Bio reports.

Long was a longshot coming into the NFL

Unlike his son, Chris, who was one of the top collegiate players entering the 2008 NFL Draft, Howie Long's professional football career was not a guarantee. In the 1981 Draft, Long was a defensive tackle from Villanova who was projected to be, at best, a late-round pick, as Long recalled (also posted on YouTube). Instead, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis decided to pick Long with the No. 48 pick in the second round at the befuddlement of the viewing public. ESPN analysts called Long's early selection, "a wasted pick" and argued that Long could have been selected in a much later round. Analysts did not even have films of Long playing and could not find much information outside of the lineman's size. However, as Long said, that may have been enough for the Raiders."The Raiders were famous for drafting bigger, stronger, faster, tougher ... I think I fit the mold with a lot of upsides physically, but a lot of untabbed potential," Long said.

Standing at 6'5 and 270 lbs, Long was certainly more than big enough to fit the mold of an NFL defensive lineman. Under the guidance of the Raiders, Long became one of the best players of his era. At his Hall of Fame speech, he made sure to credit owner Al Davis for his selection. "Many of the football experts viewed that pick as a stretch, a reach, a surprise. But Al Davis saw something in me that many, including myself, did not," Long recalled.

Howie Long's acting career

In 1993, Howie Long was coming off another Pro Bowl-caliber season with the Los Angeles Raiders, as told by Pro Football Reference. It was his second consecutive selection and his eighth selection in total. It was clear Long had plenty of football left in the tank. This made his retirement after the season shocking throughout the football world. Still, the 34-year-old Long had no regrets walking away from the game he loved.

"It's time to get on with life. .. having done just about everything there is to do in sports from a defensive lineman's standpoint, having a great time and finishing up at this point in my career in the Pro Bowl at 34, that is, in my mind, the way I think you should leave sports."

But Long had no intentions of simply going home and relaxing. Instead, he traded his playbook for a movie script. Long left the Los Angeles Raiders and moved to Hollywood. Howie Long's first film feature after his playing days was in the 1996 John Woo-directed action film "Broken Arrow," as told by the Morning Call. Aside from being the first step of Long's new career, the former football player left his mark with his death scene (spoilers) as his stock scream became known as "The Howie Scream ” according to Vice. Long has acting credits in shows and films such as "King of the Hill," "Malcolm in the Middle," and "Firestorm," TV Guide reports.

Howie Long's friendship with Terry Bradshaw

To see a former quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers and defensive lineman for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders get along is like seeing a friendship between Hatfields and McCoys. According to Ceng News, during his playing career, Terry Bradshaw led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl victories and retired one of the greatest signal-callers in NFL history. Like Howie Long, Bradshaw is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. During his career, Bradshaw's greatest rivals were the Oakland Raiders, as the two teams traded victories and bruises throughout the 1970s.

According to Sportscasting, Bradshaw joined CBS' NFL analysts team after his retirement in 1984. Nine years later, Bradshaw moved to FOX Sports, where he would be paired with the recently retired Raiders defensive lineman, Howie Long. The duo seemed to leave their bitter rivalry on the field and for almost three decades, Long and Bradshaw have been the two longest-tenure voices of FOX Sports' NFL team.

Long reflected on his relationship with Bradshaw in December 2021 on "The Pat McAfee Show" (on YouTube): "Terry and I have been together 28 years, and at least six of those years are dog years. He's my man. I love him to death. He's like the older brother I never wanted." Similar to Long, Bradshaw has appeared in his fair share of films and television shows himself, as told by TV Guide, but the pair's most remembered screen time is together on FOX Sports.