Hawkeye Speaks in Gopher Territory
Chuck Long is a Hawkeye through-and-through. He was born in Oklahoma and attended high school in suburban Chicago. But he played for Iowa and makes no apologies for it, even when talking to a group of Owatonnans during Monday's Owatonna Noon Rotary Club meeting.
He spoke briefly about the upcoming Big Ten football season. He is, after all, an analyst for the Big Ten Network. He spoke briefly about his NFL career, spent mostly with Detroit. He saluted the Owatonna Huskies on their back-to-back state titles. But he kept coming back to Iowa football, much to the delight of the numerous Hawkeye faithful who attended the event at the Owatonna Country Club.
As I drove out to the country club along Lemond Road, I saw an Iowa flag blowing in the breeze along a driveway. I don't know if it always there or was raised purposely for the day, but it was an indication of what was to come.
It was an entertaining presentation by the Iowa record-holder for nearly all the school's passing records, which have stood since his playing days in the early 1908s. Long had a very self-deprecating approach. He joked about his record-setting performance during the state championship game while playing prep football in the Chicago area. He passed for minus-three yards and figures that is a record that could stand for a long time.
From that showing, he talked of his surprise when then-Iowa offensive coordinator Bill Snyder called him up and asked him to come to Iowa for a recruiting weekend. Long said and his father were both amazed that it led to an offer of a full scholarship.
Long said in his first start, the team suffered a lopsided loss at Nebraska and his grandmother told him that he didn't have to keep playing if he didn't want to. Joking aside, Long set passing records for the Hawkeyes that still stand. He was part of a resurgence of Iowa football that including a Big Ten title in 1985.
The rise to glory was led by coach Hayden Fry. Long was able to deliver a copy of his biography to the longtime coach recently. Fry is 90 years old and lives in Texas. Long signed copies of his book Destined for Greatness at Monday's event in Owatonna.
Long went into coaching after his college and professional playing days ended. He coached at Iowa, Oklahoma, where he was part of a national championship, San Diego State and Kansas. A couple of those jobs ended with a nonvoluntary departure and when the Big Ten Network called he took them up on their offer. He's been working with BTN for seven years and has covered a few Gopher games over that time.
He said he believes the Big Ten West is a wide-open race with five teams having a shot at the title. Northwestern (8-1) won the West title in 2018 with Iowa (5-4) tying for second place. The Gophers (3-6) were fifth. Long said expansion could hit the conference again and wouldn't be surprised to see 16 teams in the league at some point. There are currently 14 teams.
Long directed a couple of his remarks toward returning Owatonna High School quarterback Sol Havelka. It was odd, however, to have a college football-themed program in Owatonna and not hear the name Jason Williamson. The OHS grad is an incoming freshman for the University of Minnesota but suffered a knee injury during spring practice. We can hope that Long, in his role as a BTN analyst, gets the chance to say his name for years to come as a Gophers' player.