West Virginia’s David Long has a chance to prove just that with a strong week of practice at the upcoming Senior Bowl. If Long can prove that he’s capable of hanging with the best competition in college football, his well-rounded skill set should help him prove the same in the NFL.
Long recently spoke exclusively with MCM about the Senior Bowl, playing against Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield, and why versatile defenders are a must-have at the next level.
JM: Where were you when you found out about your Senior Bowl invite and what was your initial reaction like?
DL: I was hanging out with my cousin. I had just gotten back from our bowl game. I was excited because I didn’t think I was gonna get in. It was definitely a surprise for me. I was definitely glad and grateful that I have a chance to show my talent out there.
LB @David__Long of @WVUfootball, a fourth-year junior graduate, has accepted his invitation to the 70th Annual Reese's Senior Bowl! #SeniorBowl #CompeteAndConnect #NFLTraditionInMobile pic.twitter.com/aGbqSEtrra— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) January 1, 2019
JM: What’s the lasting impression you hope to leave on the general managers and scouts in attendance?
DL: I want to show them that I’m a football player, point blank period. I have a high motor and my job is to make plays. That’s what I go out there and do.
JM: How would you describe your skill set?
DL: I would describe it as fast and physical. I’m an instinctive player. I think those are the words that would best describe me and how I play the game. I understand how to read plays and adjust accordingly.
David Long Jr., West Virginia's 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, has been named to the Bednarik Award Watch List. pic.twitter.com/0eMSdGVeQI— West Virginia Football (@WVUfootball) July 16, 2018
JM: 246 career tackles, 39.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. Do you feel like you’re getting enough attention nationally?
DL: No, but I’m pretty used to that. Coming into my career at West Virginia, I really didn’t get much attention as a recruit either. I don’t know why but that’s never happened for me. I’m used to slipping through the cracks a little bit. I have been getting some more attention last year and this year as well. I’m grateful for that. I understand it comes with the game. A lot of guys get overlooked. I’m just one of those guys. I’m not gonna complain about it. I’m just gonna keep playing my game and doing my job.
JM: What’s your favorite part about playing the linebacker position?
DL: I would just say the part of it that allows me to hit the ball carrier. I love getting downhill and hitting a guy. I enjoy reading plays and adjusting to them. I’m used to our opponents trying to take me out of the box. That’s what offenses tried to do to me. They tried to run away from me. That was fun for me because I had to play off how they’re playing me. I was out there running down plays even though I was schemed to be taken out of the picture.
JM: Linebacker comes with so many responsibilities. You’re often times the field general out there. How comfortable are you making the calls and what not?
DL: I’m very comfortable with that. I watch a lot of film throughout the week so I can read the plays and read the offense as a whole. That allows me to get my guys lined up and make sure they’re in the right place. Being that field general if you will gets me excited. I embrace having that type of pressure on me. I think it’s great. When people look at you and expect you to get them lined up correctly, that’s a big deal. It shows a lot of trust.
JM: One thing I’ve noticed over the past couple of years, and feel free to disagree with me, I don’t think there’s another position in football that has transformed more than the linebacker position. The way NFL offenses are operating nowadays completely changed the role of the linebacker. Two down thumpers don’t have much value anymore. It’s all about being fast and physical and being able to play all three downs.
DL: I definitely agree with you. You didn’t say anything wrong there. We as linebackers are getting asked to cover a lot more nowadays. We have to be able to drop into zone coverage. With that being said, there’s a lot that we have to be able to do. We have to be able to lift with the offensive line and run with the tight ends and receivers. It’s definitely a difficult job. We just gotta play accordingly.
JM: Which linebackers did you enjoy watching growing up and do you model your game after any of them in particular?
DL: I get asked this question a lot. I wouldn’t say that I model my game after anyone in particular. I enjoyed watching Ray Lewis. I used to watch a lot of Luke Kuechly in high school. He’s from around here so that was an easy one. I definitely don’t model my game after one specific guy though.
JM: You’re one of 12 children. What was the household like growing up?
DL: We didn’t all live together. I lived with two older brothers, my older sister and one younger sister. It definitely got hectic on holiday’s and stuff like that. We always came together and had a lot of fun with one another. There was never a dull moment (laughs).
JM: Who are some of the best offensive players you’ve ever gone up against?
DL: I played against Taysom Hill in 2016, he was like a quarterback and running back. We played against BYU and he was pretty tough to defend. I’ve played against Oklahoma in back-to-back years so obviously Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield stood out. It was always fun going up against those guys. Sam Ehlinger was another good one. I’ve definitely played against some great offensive talents.
JM: How did you feel Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield were different?
DL: Playing against those guys is a lot of fun. I knew I was gonna have to really compete. It was a different level of intensity going into that week of practice when we knew we had Oklahoma. I love playing against guys that are on another level talent wise. You always wanna go toe-to-toe with the best. They were both fast and play the quarterback position at a high level.
JM: You’ve had a lot of great teammates throughout your time at West Virginia, but if you were going to war tomorrow and could only bring one with you, who would you bring and why?
DL: I would have to say Kenny Robinson. He’s a young guy but he came in and he’s been a dog from the beginning. He stepped up and made some plays from the moment he got here. He’s a physical guy. Him and I have very similar mentalities. He’s willing to do whatever he needs to do to get the job done. Al Benton is another guy I’d have to consider. He graduated about two years ago.
JM: I’ve appreciated your time tonight, David. Best of luck at the Senior Bowl. What can West Virginia fans expect from you going forward?
DL: They can expect me to give it my all. I’m gonna go out there and get after any opportunity that comes my way. I’m definitely gonna miss my time at West Virginia a lot. I had so much fun there. They can expect me to keep being me. I’m always gonna be the same guy. I’m gonna do whatever it takes to get me where I need to get.