The Wolverine

January 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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26 THE WOLVERINE JANUARY 2019 BY JOHN BORTON D avid Long went deep when it came to choosing a col- lege, traveling the 2,239 miles separating Los Ange- les and Ann Arbor. Until he arrived, he'd never wit- nessed a snowflake. That was about to change, along with so much for the tight-covering cornerback out of Loyola High School. He distinctly recalls his first experi- ence of slip-sliding away on the way home from practice. "It was crazy," Long said. "I had to get a ride back to West Quad. One of the coaches gave me a ride, and the car was sliding all over the place. It was just a crazy experience. I'd never been in anything like that. "I came from California. You could just wake up five minutes before prac- tice, hop in your car and drive. You can't do that here. You've got to warm your car up, get all the snow off. It was wild." A fishtail or two and the purchase of a coat rank as a small price to pay for a Midwest football experience, assures the junior cornerback for the Wolver- ines. What he's experienced the past three years just doesn't happen back home. Weather doesn't matter. The game does, at a feverish pitch that took Long aback at first, in places like Columbus and East Lansing. "I've never really been around a hostile environment like that, coming from the West Coast," he said. "Rivalry games aren't like that. In the Midwest, football is a culture. "The last two years, I bought into it. We're eye to eye now." Long never ceases to be amazed at the loyalty of those who show up for these modern-day gladiator events. "It's the fans," he said. "They're out there, rain, sleet or snow. They're wild, they're crazy. Other games back home? Might show up, might not show up, if it's raining outside, too hot … these fans are loyal. They're going to be there, and it matters. "Even for me, it was a shock, com- ing here and seeing it. That was all the football I knew … you don't get that type of energy with a college football team back home." It's an energy that affirmed in his own mind the decision to leave the big city for The Big House. It still wasn't easy, he offered. "Just leaving home was tough," he said. "I was a kid from L.A. Just being far away from everything I knew. I didn't know anything about the Mid- west, and I hadn't been on too many planes. It was a culture shock. "Buying into the culture of every- thing here — the coaches, the players, the fans, the environment. It's been a great experience, something I couldn't really have foreseen. "In some ways, I went out on a limb, coming out here. I didn't know any- body. There weren't that many Califor- nia kids. I didn't have anybody to lean on. I was here by myself. But I'm glad I took the leap of faith. It allowed me to grow in a lot of ways." DEDICATED FROM THE START Long grew plenty before he ever set foot in Ann Arbor, assured his high school coach, Marvin Sanders. A for- mer Cornhusker under Tom Osborne at Nebraska, Sanders later served as an assistant coach for the Huskers and at USC before taking the high school program at Loyola. He has since re- turned to the college game and is now the defensive coordinator at Coastal Carolina. His Loyola tenure happened to coin- cide with that of a budding high school star. Long actually transferred into Loyola because of its strong academics. He'd used his smarts in the class- room, but also on the football field. Long combined it with a willingness to do whatever it took to succeed, Sand- ers noted. "Working over the summer with him, watching his work ethic and workouts was amazing," Sanders said. "He always wanted to compete, whether it was a race, whether it was playing basketball in the gym. "You saw that competitive fire in him, and it wasn't in a bragging way, because he's a very quiet man." And a humble one, Sanders added. Because of the transfer, Long wasn't eligible to play for the first month he attended Loyola. He ached to con- tribute, though, so he volunteered to perform on the demonstration squad, and Sanders inserted him at quarter- back. "You saw that fire in him," Sand- ers said. "Then volunteering to be a scout team quarterback, with his tal- ent. It spoke volumes about what type a young man he was. "I knew that, once he was eligible to play, he would be a big factor for us." He began in earnest as a spectacular receiver, wowing his teammates in practice the first week he was eligible to play. "First of all, the effort level of every- one increased, because they wanted to keep up with this young, energetic kid," Sanders recalled. "But he made a one-handed catch in the back of the end zone, and I thought, 'Wow! This kid is special.' "Just the way he was able to adjust his body. For a young kid to have the ability to do that. I remember that play like it was yesterday. It was amazing. "He made our quarterbacks look really good, because his catch ratio was really big. We played a team, San Diego St. Augustine, which was a powerhouse down in the San Diego region, and the plan was, throw it up to David, because you know he'll go up and get it." Eventually, Sanders impressed upon the young talent that he could enjoy a very big future as a defensive back. "He loved catching the ball, and we used him both ways, of course, at the high school level," Sanders said. "But I told him: 'David, receivers are a dime a dozen that have your skill set, the speed and the quickness.' MANNING UP David Long Seeks No Shortcut To Greatness Going into bowl games, Long ranked third nationally among all cornerbacks with a 37.0 NFL passer rating given up this year (minimum 200 coverage snaps). He allowed just nine catches for 42 yards and a touchdown, and his 0.15 yards per coverage snap allowed ranked first nationally among FBS corners. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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