The heart, grit and determination that Kyle Long demonstrated throughout an arduous rehabilitation from a serious ankle injury has earned the veteran guard a prestigious honor.
Long has been selected as the Bears' recipient of the 2017 Ed Block Courage Award, which is presented each year to the player that best displays professionalism, great strength and dedication and is also a community role model. The award is voted on by teammates and organized by athletic trainers, player representatives and team captains.
Bears guard Kyle Long will make his fifth straight start Sunday against the Panthers.
"I'm tremendously humbled to be voted by my teammates the Ed Block Courage Award winner," Long said. "At first it didn't make sense to me because there are so many guys battling back from things. It wouldn't be something that I would think I would even be in contention for.
"I remember previous winners from when I was younger. Matt Slauson won it and he was battling back from a lot of stuff. I remember how I looked up to him and hopefully this will serve the purpose of showing younger guys that no matter what happens you can always battle back and try to get back out there and help your team."
Long sustained a broken ankle last Nov. 13 in a loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa. At the time, he had absolutely no idea how bumpy his road to recovery would be.
"Initially when you get hurt you don't realize the magnitude and the real power of time and how much time it will take to be able to get back to where you want to be physically," Long said.
"Honestly it's good to be able to talk about it now in the past tense because the injury was something I've never dealt with before. I never had a serious injury or season-ending injury and [I'm thankful for] just the outpouring of support from my teammates, the constant love and support from my family and all-around great job the training staff did."
Long missed the entire preseason and the first two games of the regular season, finally returning Sept. 24 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The three-time Pro Bowler is slated to make his fifth straight start Sunday when the Bears host the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field.
The journey back was much more difficult than Long ever imagined, beginning with some complications he experienced following surgery on his ankle.
"My body just didn't respond very well to some of the medications that were prescribed to me," Long said. "It was an extremely invasive surgery. Both sides of my ankle pretty much had to be reconstructed. It was a painful time for me, and my body just kind of went into shock. I lost 60 pounds and I didn't recognize the guy in the mirror, to be honest.
"That was a process in and of itself, being able to gain that weight back and the strength. My leg looked like a twig. It was really a slow process, but I was able to get back going with the help of the people around me."
Long appreciates the support he received from all of his teammates, but he's not sure what he would have done without linebacker Danny Trevathan, who was rehabbing a serious knee injury while Long was trying to fight back from his broken ankle.
"Danny Trevathan was a guy who was in the training room with me a lot," Long said. "He's somebody that I look up to and I definitely did as well during the recovery process. So he's somebody that I'd like to thank because he set an example of what it looked like to be on the mend and coming back from an injury."
The Ed Block Courage Award benefits the Ed McCaskey Scholarship Fund which donates to high school, college and vocational scholarships for the children of Maryville. The scholarship is named for Ed McCaskey, the husband of Virginia McCaskey. Ed was a longtime Bears vice president and Maryville supporter.
The Ed Block Courage Award was created in Baltimore in honor of Eddie Block, former head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts. Eddie Block and his wife dedicated their lives to helping children in distress as foster parents and advisers. There are 23 Courage Houses presently connected with NFL teams and this will be the 39th year of the Awards.
Long will be honored April 3 at the Chicago Bears Ed Block Courage Award Luncheon at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines.