Chris Long Looking at Creating Changes to Help Communities
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - On and off the field, Chris Long is a standout. The former University of Virginia football star recently sat down with NBC29’s Henry Graff, where he opened up about his career in the NFL and how he's using that as a platform to help people half a world away.
It's unclear if Long will return to football, saying he is taking time to figure out his future. But one thing is for sure, no matter how it all plays out, the two-time Super Bowl champion wants to leave a lasting impression.
You would think this would be the busiest time of the year for Chris Long - training and playing with the Philadelphia Eagles - but that's not the case.
"For me now, in my off season, I'm the busiest," said Long. That busy life took off in Charlottesville. The 34-year-old went to school at St. Anne's-Belfield and the University of Virginia. An academic athlete, Long helped take the Cavaliers to the Gator Bowl in 2008. Walking around Scott Stadium more than a decade after all those wins, Long recalls those big plays and the cheering fans.
"It is a community. I think people really feel that kinship with their teams here," he said.
Recently, the defensive end also won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. Long attributes that win to what he's doing in his spare time.
"To say you're the man of the year in a sport… There's a lot of better men than me in that sport, in my own locker room, but we have been very productive off the field. So as long as people don't take it as a measure that I'm perfect, I'm cool with it."
Long is shifting his focus from the Eagles, now putting an emphasis on giving back. In 2017, he donated his entire salary for that year's NFL season to charity. He also launched the Chris Long Foundation that same year.
"There's only a short window in your life where you have that ability to make a difference at your maximum, and for me that's with this platform as an NFL player," said Long.
That realization came after a climbing trip on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania: "Folks over there are drinking from water sources that are just unacceptable."
Long saw first-hand a clean water crisis in Africa and decided to team up to tackle thirst. Waterboys is an initiative that unites NFL players from across the league in service. An initial goal to install 32 solar-powered wells has grown to 59. Now, the project is helping more than 200,000 people, and the hope is to serve one million.
"They [NFL players] never spent time maybe doing anything about it, and seeing their face light up when they meet that kid that's been affected positively by their work, or seeing a school where we put in a well, it really is a game changer for them," Long said.
Long plans to continue changing the game: Whether he's on the gridiron or in the stands, he wants to leave a legacy that's more than just athletic stats.
“I'm ready to test myself and figure out. I think I know who I am, but I'll be excited to see who I am without football," he said.
The Chris Long Foundation is set to hold a fundraising event at King Family Vineyard from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 11. Tickets and additional info can be found here.
After football, Long plans to continue running his foundation. He also hinted that he has some media endeavors to work on, but shied away from going into details.