ANN ARBOR -- Jake Long wore No. 77 as well as any Michigan offensive lineman ever has. Was he hard to miss because of his massive, 6-7, 300-pound frame? Sure. But for four straight years, Long became the anchor of the Michigan offensive line, and premier left tackle, allowing just two sacks his entire senior season.
Moving on to become the No. 1 overall pick of the Miami Dolphins in the 2008 NFL draft, Long is now moving a little closer to the Midwest, inking a four-year, potentially $36 million deal with the St. Louis Rams this off-season.
For Long, from Lapeer, Michigan, the move a little further north is the right one, at the right time, seeing a bright future protecting former No. 1 pick of the Rams, Sam Bradford.
“I’m happy,” said Long as a guest on the Mott Takeover on Sports talk 1050AM WTKA. “I think this was a great situation for me. My five years in Miami were amazing and I wouldn’t change it for anything but I had to sit down and see what was best for me and my family and it was time to move on for the next chapter of my career.
“I’m just really happy being with coach Fisher and the Rams and I think this team is going to do great things.”
From the tattoos, to the position, and even to the shadow-forming frame, current Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan, also No. 77 for the Maize & Blue, is following the former captain’s footsteps in many different ways. After a stellar junior season for the Wolverines, Lewan was left to ponder a life and career altering decision -- forgo his final season in Ann Arbor to become a potential top 10 pick in the NFL draft, or comeback, like Long did, to further cement his Michigan legacy.
Long’s decision to return for his fifth year worked out splendidly, and he believes the same is possible for Lewan.
“I’m really proud of Taylor,” said Long. “I think he’s a hell of a player. I’ve followed him since he got to Michigan and he’s carrying on that great lineman tradition. I got to meet him a few years ago, became close with him and have talked to him a lot, especially when he was thinking about coming out.”
Long’s $30 million guaranteed contract back in 2008 was at the time the most lucrative contract an offensive lineman has ever received in NFL history. Turning down millions of dollars for one more year as a collegiate athlete isn’t easy, but Lewan doesn’t seem to have any qualms about the move based in part on the advice Long provided.
“We talked a lot about it and he asked me what my decisions were to come back and if I regretted it. We talked a bunch about it. In the end I told him he’s got to figure out what’s best for him and whatever he decides just be happy with it and go in 100-percent. I think he’s going to get better from this experience.”
Making the trip back to Ann Arbor for the Mott Takeover weekend and all of the festivities that come with it, Long marvels at the positive impact three Michigan legends continue to maintain year in and year out.
“It’s such an amazing cause,” he said. “What Brian (Griese), and Charles (Woodson), and Steve (Hutchinson) have done, raising all the money for the hospital, bringing back all the old coaches and players to be a part of it and just the millions and millions of dollars they have raised -- it’s an amazing weekend that benefits so many kids and it really is an honor to be a part of it. I look forward to this weekend every year.”