While most of the country might be focused on the NFL playoff battles on Sunday, Rice's Brandon Long is one of nearly 100 college football players who are hoping their own efforts on the gridiron the same day might provide the opportunity to one day reach those same playoffs.
Rice's deep snapper for every game over the last four years, Long was selected to play in the first annual Eastham Energy College All-Star Game, which will kickoff at 6:30 (central) at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. The game was the brainchild of former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach and several others.
Long will play for the Stripes squad, coached by Hal Mumme. The game will be broadcast by Fox Sports Arizona and picked up in additional markets around the country by the various FSN affiliates.
Long checked in with the R Blog this week in the middle of preparations for the game.
Where were you when you found out you had been selected for the game? How did you react/who did you call first?
I was actually in my back yard playing with the dog when I got the call inviting me to the game. I was really surprised because there really isn't a way to quantify snappers, there just isn't any statistical categories, so the fact that they chose to invite me meant a lot. I called my dad first, he's probably the one that helped me most along the way.
When we talked in the fall, you had mentioned that a few scouts had talked to you about the possibility of continuing your career. Is the invitation to this game an indication that there is something to that talk?
Perhaps-- it certainly is an opportunity to get in front of a lot of scouts and make a case for playing at the next level.
I would imagine you have a lot of interaction with scouts during practice. What do they tell you?
I haven't spoken with many in practice and to tell you the truth the interactions outside of practice are more gauges of character than questions about football. They all want to know if you have arrests and stuff like that. And some of the questions on the tests we take are kinda quirky (ex. Have you played on a team that punted on first down?).
How close are you to completing your degree? I know you had gone on some interviews in the fall, do you have some back up options if professional football does not become a reality, or if it locks out?
I am taking class right now but its only one class so the stress levels should remain pretty low this semester. Currently I'm just enjoying the fact that I get one more game and looking forward to opportunities Rice has given me, both from an athletic and academic standpoint. I have very nice job in the finance industry I'm looking forward to. However, the possibility to play at the next level is a once in a lifetime opportunity I can't pass up.
Was there any part of you that thought when you pulled off the pads after the UAB game that it might be your last game ever?
Oh I definitely thought that may have been my last game. Now at least I get to play one more.
Had you been working out when the invitation to the game came, or did you have to step things up a bit to shaky of a little holiday "rust"?
Yea I kept working out after the season, I figure there no harm in hitting the gym every once in a while. I did go out and snap some before coming here to make sure I wasn't too rusty.
Talk a little about what you've done since you go to Phoenix... any funny or memorable moments? Anything special about playing in the first year of this game?
It's been alot of fun thus far and the weather is great. I've met a ton of good guys and made a lot of friends and its pretty cool to trade stories and see how other programs operate (Rice is unique, with the college system and no athletic dorms... stuff like that.) The tests we have taken are something else... lots of odd ball questions meant to delve into how you think.
I was surprised to see that this game was actually created by former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach and several other people. Has he been an active participant in this first year of the game?
He has been around and I actually saw him running around practice today. In fact, his mentor is my team's coach and we will run a similar air raid offense. Considering the numbers that it put up at Texas Tech all those years it is surprisingly simple.
Will we see the "R" running down the field on coverage, or do you wear helmets they issue to you?
No, the Old English will be cruising in coverage, but it will have some company. Everybody has traded decals so everyone's helmet is plastered with colors. I tried to keep it somewhat organized and rest assured there's no UH's on mine. (there are a few Coogs here though... and they are good guys)