NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and NU All-American Spencer Long.
By Randy York
The life and times of Spencer Long never cease to amaze. Right in the middle of the hustle-bustle surrounding the National Football Foundation’s (NFF) annual banquet at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel Tuesday, the Commissioner of the NFL shared a few personal moments with each of the 16 recipients of the NFF’s National Scholar Athlete Awards. Imagine that. Spencer Long, Nebraska walk-on, going one-on-one with Roger Goodell, the most powerful man in all of sports. One thing about a scenario like that. Maybe the man who announced the NFL’s $765 million settlement with retired NFL players for concussion-related injuries could talk about Nebraska’s East Stadium, the new home of concussion-related research. How ironic would that be?
It is not far-fetched, especially when a First-Team Nebraska Academic All-America offensive lineman also happens to be a second-team football All-American. Talk about the ultimate early-bird career choice – the National Football League or Medical School? Who else could huddle up with Goodell and discuss those kinds of options?
Garrison: Long’s Dual Skills Would Create Clout
"I don’t know particularly what Spencer wants to study or what practice he wants to have for sure, but you talk about a guy who’s lived it on both ends," said Nebraska Offensive Line Coach John Garrison, who was on the recruiting trail Tuesday. "There aren’t too many doctors out there that can relate to playing in the trenches and butting heads with 300-pound guys, plus guys who can run :04.4 40s. That would be a guy who would hold a lot of clout in the medical field. He would certainly be able to relate to concussion research study,"
Garrison calls Long “the Nebraska Dream Kid” because “he grew up here, walked on, earned a scholarship, became an All-American. He’s grown up so much in the last year. What really sticks out to me is his leadership even when his season ended in October. He knows how to motivate people and get them to follow him. He still had a tremendous effect on our team. Knee surgery didn’t keep No. 61 off the field. He was always out there encouraging and helping his teammates. His leadership really says a lot about who he is, what he stands for and how he plays the game. I’d be shocked if he’s not drafted. He’s not done with football, and he knows it. By the time they hold tryouts, he should be full speed and ready to go. Whoever gets him is getting an outstanding person and one heck of a football player. It’s unfortunate his career ended early here, but he’s going to be great in the NFL.
Leblanc: Long Maxes Out in School, Sports, Life
Dennis Leblanc, Nebraska’s Senior Associate Athletic Director for Academics, was en route to a meeting when I caught up with him in the North Stadium Concourse to ask about one of his shining stars getting a private conversation with the NFL Commissioner.
“The thing about Spencer is: What more can you ask for?” Leblanc said. “Here’s a guy who was not highly recruited. He came here with aspirations of just trying to make the team and go to med school. He ended up excelling in football at the same level he excelled in school. He went from a guy who couldn’t even get recruited to a guy who’s probably going to be drafted. That’s what you look for – somebody that excels at the highest level, maxes out in school, maxes out in sports and is going to max out in life.”
Zimmer: Long’s Haul of Honors Are Still Coming
Keith Zimmer, Nebraska’s Associate Athletic Director for Life Skills, could not be happier. “Spencer has been a dedicated and committed student-athlete since Day One,” he said, adding that he deserves a significant postgraduate scholarship to cover his options. He’s the first in the family to consider playing professional football while the medical profession runs in the family. “When you look at what Spencer’s done athletically, academically and leadership-wise – on and off the field – he’s very deserving of all the national recognition coming his way,” Zimmer said, “and I think there will be even more opportunities beyond what he’s getting this week in New York.
“Spencer has a lot of options and that really mirrors what our Life Skills program is all about,” Zimmer said. “If his athletic career continues, that’s great; we encourage that. But he also has a great fallback as a top-tier candidate for med school. He’ll do very well there, too.”
Classify The Spencer Long Story Non-Fiction
The Spencer Long Story is a bit of mystery right now but ultimately will be based on fact, not fiction, even if Tuesday was just another day where a promising doctor got to hang out in the city that never sleeps with the biggest Commish in the Big Apple. How about that?
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