Super Bowl LVI spotlight: David Long Jr.

THOUSAND OAKS (News4usonline) – A lot has been made about the Los Angeles Rams playing in their backyard for Super Bowl LVI. For Rams cornerback David Long Jr., the feeling of being home and having the opportunity to play in the biggest sporting event in the world, has to be surreal.

For Long, Southern California is home. Before he went on to star at the University of Michigan, and long before he found himself being drafted by the Rams in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Long honed his football skills at Los Angeles Loyola High School as a two-way star.

Yes, you might say that the local kid makes good when he steps out on the football field at SoFi Stadium to help the Rams as they face off against the Cincinnati Bengals in this year’s Super Bowl. But it’s been quite a journey for Long.

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Before being afforded the opportunity to chase around and guard Cincinnati wide receivers Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase in Super Bowl LVI, Long had to work and improve on his craft as a secondary defender.

His first season in the NFL was a wash as he played in eight games and registered just a grand total of eight tackles for the ballclub.   

Since his rookie season, Long has steadily gotten better. He appeared in all 16 of the team’s games in 2020. But it has been playing under Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris’ schemes this season where Long has really seemed to flourish.

Playing in 16 of the possible 17 games during the 2021 regular season, Long was in on 36 tackles with 31 of them being solo stops. As far as any ball-hawking skills he may possess, Long showcased that ability against the Arizona Cardinals in the Rams’ 34-11 Wild Card playoff win when he picked off Kyler Murray and returned the interception for a touchdown.

Long attributes his growth and development as a player not only to Morris but to the other defensive coordinators he’s had to play under and learn from.    

“I’ve had three different [defensive coordinators], and I feel like I’ve continued to grow, continue to learn,” Long said during an October interview at the Rams practice facility. “I’ve had different roles. I still feel like my best football is ahead of me. So, I’m just growing. I feel like I’m in a good spot. I’m further than where I was at in my rookie year coming in, but still growing, still got a lot to do. I’ve shown glimpses. It’s just about making that consistent, and like I said, continuing to grow.”

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Long said having multiple defensive coordinators in his three-year career has only made him better.    

“I don’t like looking at anything as a negative,” Long said. “I’ve learned a lot of good football. I’m thankful for all those coaches. Different mentalities, different philosophies, mindsets. So, I’ve been able to put that in my game and just continue to grow and have a larger toolbelt rather than just being in one system. I really don’t see anything as a negative. It’s a little more difficult, but like I said, I have a larger toolbelt than if I were to be doing a smaller or simpler task.” 

All of that tutelage that Long has received from Morris and his other coaches have paid dividends in more ways than one in the postseason for the Rams. Long’s pick-six touchdown against Arizona sealed the Rams’ dominating win over the Cardinals.

Long followed that up by recording six tackles in the Rams’ 30-27 win against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC divisional round playoff game on the road. But because he sits behind Jalen Ramsey, considered by many to be the best cornerback in the NFL, Long’s role in the Rams’ secondary varies, which is fine with him.

The objective for Long is to help the Rams win.

“Just try to win games,” Long said. “We’re trying to win games, and that’s all it is. Sometimes [your] role is one thing, then maybe it’s another thing next week. So, you can’t get too caught up in that. You just kind of have to master your role, master whatever that you’re asked to do, and just help this team win. Obviously, [I’m] committed to the goal of winning, trying to get a Super Bowl and all those things. So, regardless of what my role is, I’m trying to match that and be the best I can be for this team.”