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Former Lake Oswego running back returns to the football field at Portland State, looking good in ahead-of-schedule comeback after brain surgery

In May, after undergoing surgery to remove an infectious lesion from his brain, Steven Long was given doctor's orders to have no contact on the football field for at least six months. His career, in fact, seemed in jeopardy.

Imagine the surprise to all, then, when the redshirt freshman running back reported for duty -- cleared for all activity -- when Portland State opened training camp earlier this month.

"Things change," said Long, who could be suited up Thursday when the Vikings open the season with a 7 p.m. game against Eastern Washington at Jeld-Wen Field. "The first day, I was able to do everything. It's hard not to smile."

When Long underwent an MRI in July, results showed the brain looking "really healthy," Long said Monday. "I was optimistic."

After discussion with Long's medical team, "everyone was on board to let me go full bore," he said. "Everything looked fantastic, so it was, 'Let's see what happens.' "

Long has gone through full workouts with his teammates for the past 3 1/2 weeks.

"I feel good," he said. "There are no symptoms with the head. I've communicated with the trainers, but I've stayed healthy. I'm back to normal -- back to being a normal kid."

Long is also recovering from Achilles' tendon surgery in May 2012.

"The Achilles is still getting there," he said. "I'm not 100 percent yet speed-wise. I'm still getting caught from behind at times. The doctor said it won't be completely healed until maybe the end of September. It takes time, but I feel good about it. I just have to be patient."

On Monday, coach Nigel Burton hadn't decided whether to redshirt the 5-7, 175-pound Long. The Vikings have a pair of veteran running backs in senior D.J. Adams and junior Shaquille Richard who are running 1-2 on the depth chart.

"Steven is doing really well, but he's kind of on the cusp" of redshirting or playing this season, Burton said. "Do we make a long-term or short-term decision? Coming in behind two veterans, it's a little tougher to break in with that much experience.

"But no question, he'll be a running back for us. He has all the skills. He could be a star. I think he'll be a great one some day."

Long was among the players returning punts during Monday's practice.

"Special teams is a goal, if that's what you have to start with," says Long, who wants to play this season but would be OK with a redshirt year. "And you never know. Twelve games is a long season. If there's an injury (at running back), you have to be ready. It's next man up."

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