Editor's note: Raiders Insider Scott Bair is in Minneapolis all week long covering Super Bowl festivities -- check out Scott's archive as he files stories and podcasts leading up to the big game on Sunday
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Terry Bradshaw cornered Chris Long shortly after Philadelphia won the NFC championship. He asked the veteran defensive and son of Raiders legend Howie Long about making Super Bowl LII, and the emotions that come with it.
The interview didn’t last, despite Chris Long’s eloquence. FOX cameras cut back to the pregame set, to capture his son Waylon having a Riley Curry moment.
The two-year old’s smile never ceased while sitting on grandpa Howie’s lap, reveling in a moment for the entire Long clan. Chris Long made his second Super Bowl.
Waylon might not remember that moment. He’s still too young. That didn’t sully Chris Long’s joy of sharing a great moment with his boy. Here's a bond he intends to fortify. He knows, after all, what it’s like to have a father as a best friend. Replicating that is his primary focus.
“The bond with my son Waylon is the most important thing,” Chris Long said. “My dad would say that, too. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me, and he makes anything I accomplish even better. It was so great having him on the field. He was having a blast. He saw granddad through the confetti and ran over to him. He’s such a ham, and got right on TV.”
Howie Long’s always on TV, and was a megastar while Chris Long was growing up. Chris wanted to be and play like the Silver and Black’s dominant defensive end. He followed in dad’s footsteps, both in sport and position.
Chris Long was the No. 2 overall pick, and has 63.5 sacks in 10 NFL seasons. It certainly helped having someone like Howie as a sounding board, though technique isn’t always a topic on the table.
“He helps me a lot football-wise, but first and foremost he’s a best friend to me,” Chris Long said. “It certainly helps to have someone so close identify with what you’re doing and knows what it’s like. I was never the kid who walked off the field and had his dad start coaching right away. He always shot straight with me. I think that has helped me a lot.”
Chris hasn’t matched Howie Long’s illustrious career, but a second Super Bowl ring would provide some bragging rights.
“It’s hard to talk trash to a guy with a gold jacket,” Chris Long said. “I always tell him that my playoff winning percentage is better than his. I won one ring in nine years, and it took him 13, so mathematically I’m collecting them at a better clip.”
Chris Long is doing something unprecedented this year. He’s playing for free. Long donated his entire season’s salary to various charities, especially those focused on education, after fatal, racially motivated protests in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. He has encouraged fans to join the movement, and donations have doubled his original amount.
Long is trying to give back and support racial minorities protesting mistreatment by the criminal justice system. He’s one of a few Caucasian players to stand in front of a movement started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“I had every opportunity growing up,” Chris Long said. “Why wouldn’t I want other people to have the same experience, especially considering I didn’t fully appreciate it? My teammates are like family to me, and we didn’t all come from the same neighborhood. I can accept that I might love America, but others look at things through a different lens.”
He spent most of an hour-long session with the media Monday talking politics and social cause, a period he didn’t enjoy but considers essential given his celebrity status. He scoffs at those who consider athletes promoting social causes a distraction to the games themselves.
“Distraction is code for ‘I don’t like what you’re talking about,’” Long said. “Do I want to be talking about social issues when there’s a Super Bowl coming up? No, I don’t. Players have been contributing and speaking out in more accepted ways, and fans don’t mind that. When we’re talking about criminal justice reform or improving inner cities or helping communities with people of color through education, people say it’s political. I think we’re just trying to help people. That’s it.”
Chris Long attacks his profession, his family and his beliefs with conviction. That’s something his role model, best friend and father admires.
“He has a great passion for football and, as we’ve seen with him donating his salary and playing for free this year, he has passion off the field,” Howie Long said after the NFC Championship Game a fortnight past, with Waylon on his lap. “The passion he has for all that, and the passion he has for his family, is really special.”