If you were an Iowa football fan during the 1980's, the name of Chuck Long rekindles some of the warmest Hawkeye memories you may have collected in your gray matter.
The naked bootleg against Michigan State…the game winning drive to set up Rob Houghtlin's field goal against Michigan when Iowa was on top of the college football world…Bombs away at the Freedom Bowl…and on and on and on.
Long, who was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999, coached on Hayden Fry's staff late in Fry's career and spent a season with Kirk Ferentz.
Hawkeye Nation Magazine Editor Rob Howe recently spoke with Long while working on a project for later this year. Though it has been years since he played for Iowa, Long still keeps up with his alma mater.
Do you still follow Iowa?
I follow them every week all year. Kirk Ferentz and that staff have done a tremendous job. Hats off to them. They've done a great job there.
That is not an easy place to recruit. There's not a lot of population in the state. You don't have 50 top players like Texas does or California. You just don't have that.
So, I know how hard it is there, and they've done a great job. I was there a year under Kirk. I enjoyed that year and learned a lot. I enjoyed working for Ken O'Keefe. Ken was professional in every single way. He really was.
You know, Kirk goes back to the early Hayden Fry days. We knew the value of Kirk back then. It doesn't surprise me what he's doing now. He's an excellent football coach.
Is it strange for you in any way that you coach for a major college football program and yet root for another one for which you played?
Oh, I don't know if strange is the right word. I like it. Since Bob and I were teammates at Iowa together, it was an easier move for me here because of that. We have a big Iowa connection down here.
I was very fortunate to be able to go back and coach at my alma mater. That's hard to do; and not only that, but to coach for the man that I played for in Hayden Fry. I don't know how many guys can actually say that.
To me, that was really a blessing in a way because coaching is hard to get into. It's extremely hard to get into. These jobs are like gold because there are not a lot of them. Unless they start building new universities, there aren't going to be enough jobs. There are more good coaches than there are jobs. They're hard to get, and I know the value of these jobs. I was very fortunate to get in when I did.
A lot of coaches see ex-players and say, "He's a good player, but he's probably not going to be a good coach." I'm glad Hayden saw in me and said "Hey, this guy can be a good coach, too." And he brought me in.
Have you ever come upon a situation where you've had to recruit the same kid that Iowa was recruiting?
Yeah. We have. Akim Millington last year we signed out of my hometown of Wheaton, Ill.; my high school, Wheaton North High School. Iowa was interested in him.
I mean, every now and then we'll overlap. That's part of it.
The nation has gotten smaller in terms of recruiting. There's so much information that you can get on kids. And kids today are more willing to travel. They look nationwide.
Every now and then, we'll be in on the same kid, but not much. They have their territory and we have ours. We have a very good territory next to us in Texas. So, unless we have some kind of connection or we have mutual interest with a player up there in their territory, then we'll go after him.
But I had a guy at my alma mater that we had to go after. I could not, not go after a guy from my alma mater.
What are your coaching aspirations?
I would eventually like to become a head coach. That is an aspiration.
But I'm not in a big hurry. I enjoy my time here. My family loves it here. I have a sophomore in high school. You start getting into that high school age, and you want to settle down a little bit.
I feel like I have a great job, so I can pick and choose a little bit. I don't have to look at everything that comes down the pike. This job that I have is better than a lot of head coaching jobs out there.
Ten years ago, I was a little different. Ten years ago, I was like, "I've got to hurry up and be a head coach." Not so much anymore. I've slowed that down.
This is my 10th year of coaching, and I believe that assistant coaches need to be an assistant for at least 10 years to really understand the ins and outs of it. So, I'm not in a hurry.
We'll see what happens. I know there are some things that happen that you've got to look at. You never say "never" in this business or "always." Those are big words.
Would you ever look at coming back to Iowa if the opportunity ever were to present itself?
Oh, definitely. That's my alma mater. I obviously have a big place in my heart for Iowa. I would definitely look at that.
I did enjoy my time there as a player and as a coach. But, who knows? But I would definitely look at that. Sure.
Do you still keep in touch with Hayden? Do you get to talk to him much anymore?
Yes I do. I talk to him every now and then. Of course, he's living the good life now. (laughs) But he deserves it.
I've been in coaching 10 (years). He was in coaching probably 40. After 40 years, I can see why he's living the good life and not worrying about a thing.
And you've got a friend back in the Big Ten with Bret (Bielema) going up to Madison to join Barry (Alvarez).
That's going to be interesting, especially with the rivalry between Wisconsin and Iowa. That will definitely be interesting.