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Rising sons

Ducks Long, Dungy don't let famous last names get in the way of their contributions


by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - One of the highlights of Eric Dungy's Oregon Ducks career came in a 2011 game against Missouri State, when he scored on a 22-yard touchdown pass. Dungy has worked hard to establish his own identity, being the son of former NFL coach Tony Dungy.EUGENE — Their common bond has been the topic of some mockingly funny moments, Oregon Ducks Kyle Long and Eric Dungy say.

“I hate to make fun about reporters,” Long says. “But they ask the same questions about our dads. We give mock interviews with each other, give each other a hard time.”

The Ducks have featured their share of sons of NFL-types, including Casey Matthews, Jairus Byrd and J.D. Nelson in recent seasons, but two of the highest-profile in UO history play offensive line and receiver for the team headed to Glendale, Ariz., for the Jan. 3 Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State.

Long, a journalism major, wants to be a sportswriter, and Dungy, a sociology major, might consider coaching. Both have some family experience in those realms.

Tony Dungy, Eric’s father, coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts for many years, and led the Colts to the 2007 Super Bowl title. He also played three seasons in the NFL, winning the 1978 Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Howie Long, Kyle’s father, enjoyed a 13-year, Hall-of-Fame career as a defensive lineman with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, winning one Super Bowl. And Kyle’s brother, defensive lineman Chris Long, plays for the St. Louis Rams, after being selected No. 2 in the 2008 NFL draft.

On television, you can see the Dungy and Long fathers serving as studio analysts — Howie on FOX, Tony on NBC. And, yes, their sons at Oregon each watches his parent on TV, when time permits.

It’s a story line that has followed, and will continue to follow the younger Long and Dungy throughout their careers and lives.

Kyle Long has worked to be his own man. He initially pursued baseball at Florida State and then returned to football to play offensive line so as to not be compared to his father and brother.

Eric Dungy used to be bothered by talk of his father, but now he embraces it.

“I was trying to form my own identity; I’d be annoyed by it,” he says. “Now I’m confident in who I am.”

Both have done their part in Oregon’s 11-1 successful season.

The 6-7, 300-pound Long joined the Ducks last summer. He picked them over UCLA, Oregon State, USC and some Southeastern Conference schools after playing for Saddleback Community College (Mission Viejo, Calif.). Immediately, fellow Oregon players saw what they had heard about — the senior starter is very big, as in NFL-big, and very athletic.

And, he didn’t come in with a big ego. He adjusted to Oregon’s system and practices in training camp — “hardest thing I’ve ever done, mentally and physical” — and earned playing time right away.

by: COURTESY OF JESSE BEALS - Kyle Long, a University of Oregon offensive lineman with NFL ties, has been a welcome addition to a unit that needed some reinforcements.Recruited as a tackle, Long moved into the starting lineup at left guard, ahead of Ryan Clanton, in the USC game. Long has added physicality, size and attitude to an already good starting O-line.

“I’m more comfortable at the guard position,” he says. “I continue to progress. I take all the coaching and constructive criticism from guys, like (injured O-lineman) Carson York and Ryan Clanton.”

Ducks coach Chip Kelly says there isn’t much adjustment needed to play tackle or guard, but Long cites some differences.

“I would describe the guard position as close-quarters combat,” Long says. “You’re right in the mix of things. At tackle, you’re more in space to move laterally, and (the Ducks’) Jake Fisher and Tyler Johnstone do a good job of that. I’d rather play in tighter space. I’m still learning leverage, trying to get the correct hand position. It’s a different position, and it comes with subtleties you need to learn.”

The Oregon O-line has tried to play with a “nasty” demeanor, and Long likes that.

“If you’re not the mean dog, you’re going to get chewed up by the other mean dogs,” he says.

Long and the Ducks petitioned the NCAA for another year of eligibility, but it was denied; this is his lone season with Oregon.

It’s a long story, but the gist of his college athletics career goes like this: Despite multiple football scholarship offers, he signed with Florida State for baseball (as a pitcher), partied his way out of college (a DUI arrest was part of that) and went back home to Virginia to get his life together. He returned to football, played defensive line at Saddleback and then switched to offensive line. At issue for an added year of eligibility was whether the year at FSU should count.

Either way, the Ducks have a 23-year-old player who has been down the tough road and lived, athletically, to tell about it.

“I didn’t have my priorities in line off the field,” Long says, of his Florida State days. “I needed to take ownership of that.”

His lifelong dream was to play baseball, be like his idol, Ken Griffey Jr., play in the big leagues and pitch at Fenway Park.

“I was immersed in baseball. Didn’t play football until I was 17,” he says. “But right now I’m where I want to be.”

Long says he would have loved to play another season with the Ducks, before hopefully joining his brother in the NFL.

“Everybody could use another year of preparation, especially with this offense,” he says, adding that “I prepared for this to be my last year.”

Dungy joined the Ducks as a prep from Tampa, Fla., in 2010, coincidentally shortly after the time that Kelly had been leaning on Tony Dungy for some advice about what to do with enigmatic running back LeGarrette Blount.

The younger Dungy, now a sophomore, worked his way into playing time on special teams and receiver this season and last. He envisions the day when he could be one of QB Marcus Mariota’s primary targets, and looks forward to the next two seasons.

The 6-1, 180-pound Dungy excels at doing the right things on the field, which include blocking as a receiver. He had a great block on a De’Anthony Thomas score in an early-season game that was called back because of a penalty.

“With De’Anthony, Kenjon (Barner) and Marcus, you can never assume that they’ll get tackled, you have to hustle, and (blocking) represents what it means to be a receiver,” Dungy says. “I’m blocking for them. ... It’s fun to be out there, contributing out there with your boys. I’m doing whatever they ask me to do. It’s fun, especially home games.”

In the future?

“Yeah, I’m definitely working hard every day and, if I keep getting better, I might get a chance someday where, maybe I won’t be the main guy, but one of the guys” catching a lot of passes.

Dungy was born after Tony Dungy played in the NFL, but he certainly remembers much of the coach’s glory days with the Buccaneers and Colts.

Long was 5 years old when his father retired from the Raiders.

“But I have seen film and stuff,” Long says. “He played angry. He played within himself as well. He worked his tail off.”

Both can lean on their fathers for advice. Howie Long has been to various Oregon games; Tony Dungy also tries to attend games.

Eric Dungy says he and his dad “don’t talk as much about (football)” as they used to.

“High school we definitely talked about it,” Eric says. “But we talk about general ideas of football, if I have a question; it’s not like the dad on ‘Friday Night Lights.’ I’ll ask him about the theory of certain coverages, and about dealing with certain players and teams, more of the managing side. There are so many different people on the team, different characters and personalities.”

Kyle Long says his dad “just tries to instill in me to take pride in what you do. It’s all about effort. Just work hard and love what you do.”

Long regularly talks with his father, mother and two brothers. What does NFL brother Chris tell him about football?

“Just to take it all in,” Long says. “You have to appreciate where you are, the blessings you have in life, the opportunities you are given playing at a place like Oregon. College doesn’t last forever, especially college football.”