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Howie Long sees Bears as a 'crown jewel franchise'

Howie Long remains a big Raiders fan after playing his entire career with the franchise. But the Hall of Fame defensive end was thrilled that his son, Kyle, was drafted by the Bears.

"I was fortunate enough to play 13 years in that organization, which like this organization feels like it should be challenging for a championship every year," Long said. "This is one of the crown jewel franchises in football. There are not a lot of them. The town, the history of the organization, the great players that have played here, the expectations in the building, it's important."




Kyle Long is flanked by parents Diane and Howie Long in the Bears locker room. (Click on photo to view a gallery of Long's first day at Halas Hall.)

The Bears selected Kyle Long Thursday night with the 20th pick in the first round of the draft. The middle son of Howie and Diane Long took an unorthodox road to the NFL. A left-handed pitcher with a blazing fastball, he was drafted by the White Sox out of high school but opted to accept a baseball scholarship to Florida State in 2008. However, he never appeared in a college game due to poor grades and other off-the-field issues.

Kyle returned home to California and resumed his football career at Saddleback Community College, initially playing defensive end before being switched to offensive tackle. He then transferred to Oregon, where he appeared in 11 games with five starts last year.

"It's been an interesting journey," Howie said. "The guy you see today is the same guy he was at four years of age. Having three sons, we've come to the conclusion that no two children are the same. Kyle has always been an extremely kind person, a good guy.

"He's physically gifted and in some ways maybe the gifts he had in some different areas might have [made him a] jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. Through experience and life's journey, he figured out that he was wired best for football. It seems to be what makes him happy."

While Howie won a Super Bowl and was voted to eight Pro Bowls with the Raiders, he would much rather focus on what his sons achieve than revel in the past. His oldest son, Chris, is entering his sixth season with the Rams after being chosen by St. Louis with the second overall pick in the 2008 draft.

"I rarely ever think about my accomplishments," Howie said. "You are spending too much time raising three boys. You're lying in bed at night starring at the ceiling thinking: 'Have we done enough today? What can we do tomorrow?'

"When any of your kids has any measure of success in anything, you're extremely proud. Someone said this to me awhile back: As a parent, we're as happy as our saddest child. So we're pretty happy."

Howie acknowledges that there were some trying times when Kyle was struggling in Florida. But the father is very proud of how his son responded to that adversity.

"Diane and I both have tried to instill in all three of our boys 'this is how you handle yourself, this is how you work, this is the kind of person you should be,' and you just hope that some of that took root," Howie said. "We have seen over the last three years with Kyle a tremendous amount of growth. I tend to repeat myself four million times. They've heard the same thing four million times and fortunately a good deal of that has taken root with him."

Kyle has always been a special athlete. It just took him a little time to find the right path.

"I've been saying this to his mom since he was four years old: He's a freak of nature physically," Howie said. "God just puts his hand on some people and says, 'You're gifted; now what are you going to do with it?' And that's Kyle.

"When you throw 95 [miles per hour] in high school and you're 295 [pounds] in high school and running a 4.8 and you can jump out of the building and tomahawk dunk a basketball, the question then becomes what direction do you go and how important is it to you? It became obvious to us over the last few years it was very important to him."

There's nothing Kyle can do about what transpired in the past. But his future is in his hands.

"With each passing day, the only thing you can control is showing up, doing a good job, being a good guy, being a good teammate, and working as hard as you possibly can," Howie said. "You are building credibility capital every single day, and it's one brick at a time."

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