Bears guard Kyle Long played one season for Chip Kelly at Oregon, but the first-round pick said Kelly is like an “uncle” to him and was instrumental in helping him to the “right path” after substance abuse issues.
"I was at a point in my way when I could go in one of two directions, and Chip was very, very important in helping me find my way down the right path, as a football [player] and as a man," Long said.
Long, the son of eight-time Pro Bowler Howie Long and brother of Rams defensive end Chris Long, said Kelly was one of the few people who did not care about his last name, father, or brother, and made him earn whatever would come.
“Just someone who puts great emphasis on who you are as a man,” Long said. “Obviously, it’s a good thing if you can block and inside zone to the right on a read option, but it’s another thing when you’re doing the right things off the field as well.”
Long said there are similarities between Kelly and Bears coach Marc Trestman with their approach and the type of team they build, although Long is getting used to huddling and practicing without music.
When Long was asked about the emphasis on sports science in Philadelphia, he said Eagles chief of staff James Harris deserves the credit. Harris helped Long change the way he thought about sleep, nutrition, and what to do after work each day.
But it was Kelly who was instrumental in Long's development as a blocker. Long played only one season of major college, and originally enrolled in Florida State as a baseball player. Long explained how Kelly taught him and former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla how to block a screen pass.
"Here’s a box of pizza," Kelly told his players, before drawing a square with a circle in it. "I’m going to cut the pizza in two slices. Colt, this is your slice. Kyle just ate it. What are you going to do? Are you going to complain about it, or are you going to take Kyle’s slice?"
Long laughed recounting the story and how Kelly found an analogy like pizza for an aggressive football play. The lesson was to pick up the other player.
"That's just a small example of, how the hell does he think about this?" Long said.
Kelly, who was not in the most chipper of moods on Wednesday, perked up when discussing Long.
"He's as athletic as anybody," Kelly said. "He legitimately runs in the high 4.8s, 4.9s. He's nasty. He's physical. He's really a fun guy to watch on film because he loves playing football. I loved coaching him. He's awesome. I just hope he doesn't play well this week."
Long said watching the Eagles in the season opener made the hairs “sit up on the back of your neck,” and he was calling out plays on the opening drive. He still thinks about Kelly’s mantra of “Fast, Hard, Finish” before blocking, and is not surprised by Kelly getting the Eagles to buy into his philosophies.
“Chip, he’s the mastermind behind these things,” Long said. “Step one is getting people on the ship, step two is getting people moving. After seeing the first week game, I said, “He’s got it figured out.’”