Cavalier Corner

June 2018

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cavalier sports Former UVA All-American Chris Long has made his mark as both a player on the gridiron and a philanthropist over the past decade. After spending eight seasons with the St. Louis Rams (2008-15), he joined the New England Patriots and helped them to a Super Bowl vic- tory in 2016. Then last year, he played for the Philadelphia Eagles, who captured their first-ever Super Bowl (against the Patriots, of all teams). In doing so, he and teammate LeGarrette Blount joined exclusive company by winning back-to-back Super Bowls with different teams. (Deion Sanders and Ken Norton Jr. also did it with the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys in the mid-1990s. Three other players also were on winning Super Bowl rosters in back-to-back years, but didn't play in both games.) Off the field, Long launched the Chris Long Foundation in May 2015. The organization helps raise money for the initiative, which is dedicated to building wells for underdeveloped communities in East Africa. In 2017, he donated his entire regular-season NFL base salary of $1 million to education-based youth support organizations and started the Pledge 10 for Tomorrow campaign. Pledge 10 for Tomorrow was cre- ated to raise funds to support organizations that focus on educational equity and opportunity in the three markets that Long has played in during his NFL career — St. Louis, Boston and Philadelphia. Long was part of a panel that discussed athletics and race in an event at UVA April 27, and then gave the keynote address at his alma mater's Valedictory Exercises May 18. Cavalier Corner caught up with him before he spoke to UVA's graduates and discussed a variety of topics. Cavalier Corner: What did it mean to you to be tabbed to give the keynote address at this year's graduation? Long: "It's definitely a big honor. Our university has a rich his- tory. I've tried not to look at some of the past speakers because it's probably intimidating. Some things that I've been lucky enough to be a part of, on and off the football field, have allowed me a larger platform, and I don't take it lightly. "I look at it more as a challenge than anything. What can you possibly impart upon a group of students who are so accomplished? We have such a wide array of directions, aspirations, personalities and pasts. It's one of the more daunting challenges I've faced on or off the field." Cavalier Corner: In what ways did playing football for Virginia not only prepare you for a career in the NFL, but also for life in general? Long: "Playing football for Virginia prepared me for the NFL and life in a lot of ways. I think playing college football alone can mold you as a man. But doing it in Charlottesville adds a sense of humility, a sense of being whole. "I'll probably talk about it a bit in the speech." Cavalier Corner: What prompted you to establish the Chris Long Foundation and what did you hope to accomplish by doing so? Long: "I did a lot of work off the field the first five or six years of my career. It always made me uncomfortable to broadcast that work. I wanted to do it for the right reasons. At some point, I realized that I had to publicize and engage through a formal foundation to really move the needle. "This has turned out to be true. There are still times I feel awk- ward receiving praise for work. But the result is well worth the self- consciousness." Cavalier Corner: In the same vein, why did you establish the Pledge 10 for Tomorrow and what is its purpose? Long: "Pledge 10 was my opportunity as an American athlete in 2017 to put my money where my mouth was. We're all engaged in talks about how we can improve our country. I wanted to help improve educational equity in my hometown and in cities where I've played. "I decided the most efficient way for me to do so was to engage fans and lead through donating the proceeds from what I love do- ing — football. It wasn't an earth-shattering amount of money, but I think the act of playing 'for free' inspired some people to give. Fans helped double my investment." — Mike Scandura Long, who joined exclusive company by winning back-to-back Super Bowls with the Patriots and Eagles the past two seasons, donated his entire 2017 base salary of $1 million to charity. PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA 10 CAVALIER CORNER questions with Football Alumnus Chris Long

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