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Destined for Greatness: The Chuck Long Story

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
March 15, 2023 3:04 am

Destined for Greatness: The Chuck Long Story

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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March 15, 2023 3:04 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Chuck Long tells the story of how he came to be Iowa's star quarterback in the 1980's and how he later came to like coaching more than playing.

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Happy streaming. And we return to our American stories. Up next, the story of a man who was placed on the Mount Rushmore of Iowa football by the Big Ten Network. Chuck Long. Chuck played for the Iowa Hawkeyes from 1981 to 1985 as their star QB, quarterback that is. He also played for the Lions and the Rams, but his story goes much deeper than his accolades.

Here's Chuck to tell his story. This surprises people, but I was actually born in Norman, Oklahoma, so I grew up a boomer sooner. Both my parents went to University of Oklahoma. My grandparents went to University of Oklahoma and parents before them. But I was born there, but I was raised in Wheaton, Illinois. We moved up to Wheaton at a very young age.

I was three years old and my parents stayed there ever since. So I was raised in a good sports town right in the middle of Big Ten country. And when you're around a big city like Chicago with the Bears and the Cubs, the White Sox, the Blackhawks, the Bulls, you really indoctrinated early in the sports scene there.

It didn't matter the sport football, baseball, basketball. But as soon as you get into grade school as a young boy, if you weren't a part of that sports scene in Wheaton, then you're like an outcast. So it didn't really have to prod me too hard to get into sports. It became natural. I wanted to be a part of it.

It was fun for me. And it started with my father. My father would come home on the train every night at 5.30, throw his shorts on in the summertime and gather up all the kids and the parents and play ball until dark. And there's days we went from football to baseball to basketball in one day, just playing all day long pickup games. So that's what we did every night.

My dad was really instrumental in getting all the kids together. And so I took it from him. I said, you know, I just played it, played hard. I try to include everybody in the neighborhood. If you've ever seen the movie The Sandlot, I was Rodriguez in that movie. You know, Rodriguez didn't care about the score. He just wanted everybody to play and have a good time.

And the more the more the merrier. You know, growing up, I just wanted to be a part of, you know, playing. Although my mom will tell you, I didn't go out for Little League Baseball the very first year I was available to do it. And of course, I didn't do anything that year. And I had a lot of my friends in Little League Baseball.

And I could tell there was angst in the family like, what are you doing hanging around us? Well, that very next year, my mom said, you're going you're going out for Little League Baseball, whether you like it or not. You're going to love it. So I did. And she was right. I loved it ever since. So that was really my mom's doing of introducing me and prod me a little bit into baseball. Then from there was basketball and football. When I was in high school, we were a very successful high school football program. We won a state championship my junior year and I threw the ball four times in that game, completed one pass for minus three yards in that game.

Still an Illinois state record, I think. Never be broke. So the phone wasn't ringing off the hook. So I wasn't thinking anything about college or, you know, you just didn't think that way back then. So my senior year, we threw the ball a little bit more.

We got the semifinals and lost. So I was just kind of going to the next sport. I was going on the basketball. I just finished my senior year in football. No phone calls, no recruiting calls. And I started basketball in mid-December and I got the phone call to change my life forever.

I'll never forget was kind of a snowy night. I just get home from practice. And this coach named Bill Snyder, the offensive coordinator at Iowa at the time, legendary Kansas State football coach, probably the greatest football coach of all time in college football, calls me up. And my mom answers the phone and says, hey, it's this coach from Iowa wants to talk to you. I said, OK. And I get on the phone and I thought it was a practical joke.

I thought it was my buddy Tom, you know, pulling a practical joke. And I get on the phone. I realize, you know, shortly, oh, this is not a practical joke. And Coach Snyder gets on the phone. He's very monotone. And he's. This is Chuck there. This is Chuck. This is Coach Bill Snyder, University of Iowa football. We'd like to talk to you about coming in for an official visit this weekend. I said, Tom, is this you?

He goes, no, this is not Tom. This is Coach Snyder. We'd like to talk to see if you want to fly in this weekend for an official visit at Iowa. I said, sure.

Why not? You know, do you have the right guy? You know, anyway, I get off the phone. My father said, well, who was that?

I said, it was Coach Bill Snyder from the University of Iowa. And he wants to fly me in this weekend for an official visit. Are they going to pay for it? My father said. I said, I think so, Dad.

I think they're going to pay for it. So lo and behold, he drops me off at O'Hare Airport on a Friday. I fly into Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I get picked up by the great John Strief, longtime trainer there. We go to Iowa River Power Company, about the only restaurant in Coralville at the time.

And they had the biggest prime rib I've ever seen in my life. But I meet this wonderful staff, Hayden Fry, Bill Snyder, Barry Alvarez, Dan McCarney, Kirk Ference. Bob Stoops ended up being a G.A.

later on. You know, Don Patterson, Carl Jackson, Bernie Wyatt, Del Miller. I mean, these guys went on to became legendary coaches.

Five of those guys were the all time winningest coaches at respective universities around the country. All on one staff. Never been done before. I don't think it's been done since, to be honest with you. So I meet this legendary staff and thinking, yeah, the right guy here.

I mean, throw the ball four to five times a game. So at the end of the week, we go through the weekend and it was a great weekend. You know, they they dine you and they show you the tours of the facilities, the academic tours, the whole thing.

And back then, you didn't know whether you had a scholarship offer or not. So I'm just thinking I'm on a good trip here. Nice to be recognized. And so I get to Sunday and hey, that's where you that's when you go into Hayden's office and you learn all about the great Hayden Fry. And he brings me in his office and sits me on this big leather couch.

I mean, I thought I was in the Taj Mahal. He says, Charlie, we want you to be a Hawkeye. We're going to offer you a full ride scholarship.

I said, what does that mean? Exactly, coach. He goes, well, it covers everything.

Room, board, books, tuition. We're going to give you a full ride to pay for your education. I said, I jumped out of the chair, shake his hand. I said, oh, my God, coaches, this is unbelievable. This is a dream come true.

Although it wasn't really a dream of mine. You know, I said, this is great. I want to be a Hawkeye. He goes, oh, slow down, son. You go down. When you fly home, you talk it over with your folks and see if you really want to be a Hawkeye.

This is a big change for you. I said, OK, but I know I want to be an Iowa Hawkeye. Well, I fly home and my dad picks me up at O'Hare Airport and I get in the car. He goes, how'd it go, son? I said, Dad, better than I thought.

It went really well. They've offered me a scholarship. He goes, really? He goes, what does that mean? I said, well, they're going to pay for everything. My entire education, room, board, books, tuition, the whole nine yards. And he said, son, have they seen you play? I let my dad was a funny guy who had a great sense of humor, a wonderful man. And I said, I know, dad, it seems it seems strange, but they've offered me a full, full ride. And and the rest is history.

I obviously took the scholarship offer and changed my life forever. How lovely to hear self-deprecation like that in a family. It's a beautiful thing to see.

Being able to tease each other and speak a little bit of truth to each other and not get feathers ruffled from such things. Son, have they seen you play? My goodness, a beautiful story. A kid born in Oklahoma, born in Sooner territory. Barry Switzer country is now calling himself a Hawkeye and moving to Iowa City, of all places. And when we come back, more of Chuck Long's story. And it's more than a football story, folks.

It's about so much more here on Our American Stories. What the floor, this color, the white planks, these floors from L.O. Flooring are perfect. Oh, my scratch resistance. Are these pet proof, too?

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Say free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. And we continue with our American stories and Chuck Long's story. The University of Iowa's star quarterback in the 1980s. When we last left off, Chuck had just visited the University of Iowa after coach Bill Snyder unexpectedly called him, as Chuck called it, the call that changed his life. He decided to go, got the scholarship offer and of course met legendary coach Hayden Fry.

Here's Chuck talking about coach Fry. He was like a Hollywood star. He was like John Wayne. He just oozed with charisma. Now here's a program that was coming off 20 losing years in a row and he took over and he just had this feeling about him when he shook his hand and he's going to turn this thing around. You got to know you as a person rather than just a football player.

That was big. But he just made football fun. You know, you couldn't wait to hear what and do what he's going to do next. Every day in practice he did something different. At the end of every practice, here was his unique. He had something called cheer. C-H-E-E-R. And he had it printed on his practice script. He saw his practice script. He had all the periods and all the drills. At the end of it, he had the word cheer. And the reason why he had that is he wanted everybody, regardless if it was a good or bad practice, he wanted everybody to leave the field on a positive note.

Every day. And that was hard sometimes on a bad practice. But he'd make his speech, how we got to get better and improve, and then he'd call somebody up, a staff member or a player.

Alright, who has the cheer today? And that person had to say something funny, a motivational story, something to get people on a positive note before we left that field. And he always taught our coaches, don't let them leave the locker room without putting your arm around them and give them something positive and encouraging to come back the next day and try harder.

That was his unique. Well, my very first year, we had a turnaround season. I didn't play this year. I was just a freshman.

I was dressing. But we had a turnaround year. That was our year that we turned everything around. It was a magical year. We went to the Rose Bowl, first winning season since the 50s.

And I just took it all in. I remember sitting on the sideline going, man, this is unbelievable that we're doing this. Well, we had a senior-dominated team.

A lot of those guys graduated. Next spring, the quarterback battle was wide open, and I was in the battle, obviously. It was wide open.

Anybody's game. And going back to that first fall, I was struggling to see myself as a Big Ten football player. I mean, I was coming from high school and threw the ball four times a game. So I'm like, it was overwhelming for me. How am I going to catch up to this? So I go into the spring.

It's wide open. And I immersed myself in film study. I took a lot of time until 9, 10 o'clock at night just trying to catch up to this game. Well, the very first spring scrimmage, a few of the other quarterbacks got their chance.

They went in there and played. Then I got my chance at the end. And they threw me in there, and I went 16 for 17 in that spring scrimmage. I just got hot.

I couldn't miss. And that's when Hayden, he coined that phrase. That's when he made that statement that I was destined for greatness. And then the media came up after me and asked me, you know, he just said that you're going to be destined for greatness.

I said, hey, slow down. That was only one spring scrimmage. I haven't even played a game yet. And then he named me the starting quarterback.

But I did know that I had a long way to go. Well, the first game was rough. We upset Nebraska the year before. They had a really good team. They had everybody coming back off of that team with revenge on their mind.

They were frothing at the mouth, and they absolutely destroyed us and me in the process. And I couldn't do anything right in that game. I fumbled the ball. I threw the ball into the ground. I threw interceptions, shotgun snaps going over my head.

I mean, it was a miserable afternoon. It was about 120 degrees on the field. It was that hot. And I had about 15 of my family members there, both sets of grandparents from Oklahoma. My parents, my family was there. My girlfriend was there.

It was just a complete disaster debut. Well, in the middle of the fourth quarter, I'm still in there. We're getting beat 42 to nothing. I call a timeout because I'm not feeling so good. And so I get to the sideline, and Hayden is livid. He's angry with me. He said, hey, Charlie.

He called me Charlie. He goes, what are you doing calling a timeout? This game's over with. Keep the clock going.

We want to get out of here healthy. Well, I proceeded to throw up all over his white pants and white shoes. He was so mad, he called the trainer, and he said, trainer, get this guy out of here. And he benched me right on the spot. I come out after the game. I showered up, cleaned up.

So did coach. But I come out after the game, and I go up to my family, and they're all hugging me. And hey, it'll get better. And my grandmother, my little old southern grandmother said, hey, Chuck, you don't have to play this game anymore if you don't want to. And so I said, grandma, it's only one game. Give me a break here.

Hopefully it'll get better. Well, we go into next week. He decided to start another quarterback.

So he's not quite, you know, he's thinking I'm not quite ready yet. So he starts another quarterback. So I'm sitting the bench, and this is against Iowa State at home. Iowa State beats us. And he decides after that game, go with the long kid.

Just stick with him. We go down to Arizona 0-2 with our backs against the wall, and we win that football game. And I started ever since.

I was one of those guys that got motivated by proving people wrong. We were number one in the nation in 85. We just arrived a few weeks prior to the Michigan game, and they were number two. First time one and two got together probably since the 60s. And by far the greatest game in my history.

And high school, college or professional or even coaching. There was such a buzz on the campus all week long about this game. And the buildup was just tremendous. Hard to describe. We finally get to this game day. It's kind of a misty, cloudy, rainy day. And we get to the pregame warm up, and everybody's in the stands already.

There was nobody tailgating. They were all ready. They wanted to soak in every moment as well. And that opening kickoff was loud. It was a back and forth defensive battle. And it's 10 to 9, and we got to go on a drive to win the game. We get it down to the 26-yard line. We call our last timeout with two seconds left.

I mean, this was a Hollywood script. Michigan had two timeouts left, so they used them both to ice our field goal kicker, Rob Hautland. So Rob goes out there. They call a timeout. He goes back out there. They call another timeout.

And I'll never forget Rob Hautland going out. They're out of timeouts. He's got to go out and kick it now. He turns around to our sideline, and he says, don't worry, guys.

I got this. He went out there, snap, hold, kick right through the uprights. I'll never forget it. And the elation of motion of that crowd on their feet and how loud it was, it was unbelievable. Stormed the field. Fans stormed the field. We stormed the field. We were just on cloud nine beating this number two team at home. I would say the greatest victory in Hawkeye history. And all these years later, Chuck is remembering that day like it happened yesterday. And we all have those moments in our life, hopefully at least one or two. And by the way, his story of just getting pounded by perennial powerhouse Nebraska in his first start back in the day, Nebraska was just unstoppable.

And Oklahoma, big, big powerhouse programs. And how he grew from that is, as he said, I'm the kind of guy who likes to prove people wrong, and that's where I get my motivation. When we come back, more of this unique American voice Chuck Long story continues here on Our American Story. We'll see you next time.

America, the story of us. Then watch free picks from networks like Disney Story Central and more with the kids. Give your ear some love with Hit Nation Junior on iHeartRadio. Easily discover new free content each week across the best streaming apps.

Say free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. I'm Malcolm Gladwell. I live way out in the country. I drive everywhere.

And you know what scares me? That feeling of finding myself stuck on the side of the road. But now all of us can avoid that pain by getting our vehicle the part it needs before that breakdown oh no moment. With eBay Guaranteed Fit and over 122 million parts and accessories, you can make sure your ride stays running smoothly. For the parts and accessories that fit your vehicle, just look for the green check. Get the right parts, the right fit and the right prices. Let's ride. Eligible items only. Exclusions apply. And we return to Our American Stories in the final segment of our story with Chuck Long, the University of Iowa's star QP in the 1980s. When we last left off, Chuck was describing his team's win over the University of Michigan in 1985, a number one and a number two in the same conference and two teams who don't like each other. A moment he called the high point of his career. Iowa would also win the Big Ten Conference Championship that year.

Here's Chuck talking about what that moment meant for the people of his state. Well, 85 season farmers are going through a hard time. It was a devastating year for farming. Farmers were losing their farms.

It was tough. Hayden had a farming background. He grew up on a farm in West Texas. He knew all too well what it was like to be a farmer. Hayden would always be in tune with the farming community, what was going on in Iowa. And he always made us aware of that as a football team. In fact, every year he would say to us, hey, man, to get in good with the Iowa people, you have to get in good with the farmers first.

If they like you, everybody else would like you. And that's exactly what he did when he when he arrived here. He got in tune with that farming community. He went to all those eye clubs around the state and at the time there was 30, 35 of them, these clubs, and he'd go speak to those farmers and he'd be the first one there and the last one there shaking hands.

They just absolutely fell in love with Hayden. So I've had countless farmers come up to me saying, hey, we were going through a hard time, but man, you just gave us that moment of joy and happiness. Just listening to you, listening to those games on WHO radio being out in the fields and we stopped and listened to those games.

This brought us so much joy and happiness and took us away for a moment. That was big back then. The end of football is tough. I have to be honest with you. And it's tough on a lot of guys because they're used to the limelight. They're used to competing on a team.

They're used to being in the locker room with guys from all over. It's fun. Football is fun. It's exciting. You know, you hear the roar of the crowd.

But a lot of guys struggle and transition to real life. And I will say I did too. Fortunately for me, I got right into coaching. Hayden Fry, long story short, but I showed some interest in coaching. I talked to him about it.

He had an opening and he hired me. But I remember that first fall in coaching, I still missed the NFL. And I remember going in on Sunday and watching those pro games thinking I could still play.

You know, look at that. I know I'm better than that quarterback. And he was starting. And it took me a while in transition to get over that. Because my NFL career didn't go as well as my collegiate career. So I felt like I had still something to prove there. So I felt like I could still play. But over time, that went away. And I really enjoyed coaching.

So my transition was better than a lot. And what I really learned to love is mentoring and coaching kids. Even in time, I learned to love that more than I did playing. Because when you're playing and you're a quarterback, it's more individual getting yourself ready to play. Hey, I got to get ready to play for my teammates, but I got to get myself ready to play.

But when you're coaching, you're trying to get others ready to play on a physical and emotional level. And I really learned to love that more than I did as a player. In 2000, I was part of a national championship year at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops. Coached a quarterback named Josh Heiple, who's the head coach at Tennessee now, University of Tennessee. And just being part of an undefeated, magical year of winning the national title. Only undefeated season I've ever been a part of as a player and coach in my entire career. You learn how rare and undefeated season is.

I had a guy named Nate Hibble who followed Josh Heiple and he followed a legend. Oklahoma football, let me put it to you this way. If you're not fighting for a national championship every year, they don't like you.

They're booing you. Iowa's different. Iowa, you go to a bowl game, they're happy.

Oklahoma expectations are through the roof. So we had this young man named Nate Hibble who followed Heiple and there was a lot of pressure on that kid. And he actually got beat out by a future Heisman Trophy winner in Jason White. To Nate's credit, and he's in his fifth year. He has one more year to go and he just got beat out. To Nate Hibble's credit, he never got down on himself. He just had a great level of confidence about him. He came in and said, Coach, if you need me, I'll be here. I know where it's at right now.

I'd like to be playing, but if you need me. Well, Jason White blows his knee out in game three. Nate Hibble takes over and takes us to a Rose Bowl and he's a Rose Bowl MVP. That was a great story.

The following story is even better. Nate Hibble's done. Jason White comes back off of two ACL reconstructed knees.

One on each knee. Everybody wrote Jason White off. Can't play anymore. Fan base is like, hey, you need to find another quarterback. Our strength coach at the time came to me in the middle of summer and said, hey, you got to find another quarterback. He's not going to make it. He didn't go through spring ball.

He could barely get through summer. And I remember being in a staff meeting and I was the offensive coordinator at the time and quarterback's coach. Bob Stoops is in there. Our staff's in there and we're going around the table on our starting lineups and who we think can win for us that year.

Big year for Oklahoma. We had a good team coming back. They get to me and they said, Chuck, who do you think should be our quarterback?

What do we need to do there? And I said, men, I think Jason White's our guy. You could have heard a pin drop, but Bob always backed his coaches and he said, hey, if you think he's going to be healthy enough to play, let's give it a shot. So we modified our offense.

We were pure shotgun. We didn't move him around much. We just want to keep him healthy.

Well, he entered the fall and he was ready to go. Now, we could not practice him every practice. We had to sit him out like every fourth practice. Just sit him. He had to ice his knees down. We had to do all that just to rest him. We got him through training camp.

The fall, we had to sit him every Monday just so he can get through the fall. Ends up winning the Heisman Trophy that year. Probably one of the greatest Heisman Trophy winning stories there is. Just what he went through as a player, small town kid from Tuttle, Oklahoma, 3,000 people in the population.

Just the toughness and grit that he showed getting through that year and winning a Heisman Trophy. Well, I got out of coaching. Long story short, I was in coaching thinking I was going to stay in coaching and then the Big Ten Network called. So I moved to Iowa and I had this opportunity. I got a phone call from a guy named Doug Reichardt, who's a very prominent businessman in Des Moines and the state of Iowa. Everybody knows Doug and he was the chairman of the board of the Iowa Sports Foundation. So he calls me up and he says, hey, our CEO executive director position is open. We're interested in hiring you. I said, OK. And I and I explored and researched what the ISF was all about.

But it was really a no brainer for me. We reach about 200,000 Iowans statewide from all 99 counties. And our five pillars include the Iowa games, live healthy Iowa, senior games, corporate games and adapt to sports Iowa, which is sports and recreation for people with physical disabilities. And I grew up with I have a brother born with cerebral palsy. And so that was really the icing on the cake for me to take the job to try to help people with disability, have them become more active and give them avenues where they can compete in sports in the state of Iowa, along with everybody else. I just want my legacy. I want people to say, hey, I was a good person. I helped others. I use my platform to help others. I just want to be thought of as somebody that gave back, built good relationships and gave back to the community. At the end of the day, I try to use my platform and football to be able to do that. I feel I have I had a rare opportunity.

It's brought me all over the world and my travels. And I just never wanted to be a guy that we're all he's he's an eye guy. He's all about himself. I just want to be a guy that they look at and said, hey, he was all about helping people and and foundations and community.

And that's it. And a special thanks to Chuck Long for sharing his story with us. Check out Chuck's biography. Chuck Long, destined for greatness on Amazon dot com. Also, check out the Iowa Sports Foundation and what they do at Iowa Sports Foundation dot org and great work on the piece by Monty Montgomery.

I want my legacy to be that I was a good person, that I helped others and use my platform to help others. And I was a guy who just gave back so many American stories like this. Lives well lived, not perfectly lived, but well lived. We celebrate them here.

Chuck Long's story here on our American stories. Another week, another free pass to entertainment. Check out all the shows and movies you can watch with Xfinity Flex.

No strings attached. Face the darkness in the season two premiere of Yellow Jackets from Showtime. Crack open the history vault and dig into shows like America, The Story of Us. Then watch free picks from networks like Disney Story Central and more with the kids.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-15 04:39:27 / 2023-03-15 04:52:49 / 13

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