In 133 years of Michigan football only two Wolverines have been selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. There was running back Tom Harmon in the 1941 Draft, who was chosen by the Chicago Bears. Then a short 67 years later, left tackle Jake Long was selected No. 1 overall by the Miami Dolphins in 2008.
Long has had a successful NFL career thus far, having made four Pro Bowls in five seasons with the Dolphins. But the left tackle finds himself on a new team this season — the St. Louis Rams — after he left Miami in free agency this past offseason.
After being redshirted his first year on campus, Long took over the starting job at left tackle during his redshirt freshmen year and solidified the position for then-quarterback Chad Henne (now with the Jacksonville Jaguars) for four years. Long eventually became a two-time All-American, two-time Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year and a two-time First-Team All-Big Ten selection.
Long spoke with the Michigan Daily over the phone recently to talk about his time at school, reflecting on his five seasons with the Dolphins as well as transitioning to a new team and recovering from his offseason injury.
The Michigan Daily: You’ve had a hectic offseason with changing teams and recovering from injury, but what was it like to make the decision to move to St. Louis? And what has the transition been like after spending the first five years of your career with the Miami Dolphins?
Jake Long: The transition has been going great. I had an opportunity to come up here and take a visit, meet with the Rams and coach (Jeff) Fisher. I really fell in love with his philosophy and really wanted to be a part of his team and part of the Rams organization because I felt like it was a team that was going somewhere, going to do something and I wanted that, so I picked here. It was a great fit for my wife and I, and I’m just really happy to be here.
TMD: What are your initial impressions of your new team and coach Fisher?
Long: It’s a team on the rise, you know, they did some great things last year and are only getting better. I think coach Fisher is a coach every player would love to play for. This team is young, energetic and hungry and made some moves in the offseason, and I think with a lot of work we can do some great things this year.
TMD: After playing through a torn triceps muscle for part of last season, how has the recovery process come along?
Long: I’m feeling great. I had my triceps surgery last year and I’m feeling great off of that, feeling strong. This is the healthiest I’ve felt in about four years. So I’m feeling great, healthy, strong and I’m ready to go.
TMD: You have Ohio State-alum linebacker James Laurinaitis as a teammate on the Rams — and you used to play with wide receiver Brian Hartline on the Dolphins — what’s that like? Do the old college rivalries ever resurface in the locker room?
Long: Yeah we mess around and talk about it every now and then, especially when The Game comes on and we bring up some memories. Brian Hartline was a great player, great teammate, and James — I went up against him when we were in college. He was a great player and now with the Rams he’s a great leader and I’m excited to play with him.
TMD: You’re about to play in a tough NFC West division. What are your predictions for the Rams this season?
Long: It really is a tough division and that’s fun to be a part of because you can test yourself against the best players and the best teams, and that shows you what type of team you are. You want to go against the best in every single game and that’s lucky. People will come and play the best on your team and I think we can do some great things. I’m not a guy that predicts wins or losses, but I think we’re going to get better every single day, work hard in practice and I think we can do some great things this year.
TMD: How did the culture of Michigan Football prepare you for the NFL?
Long: Having (former Michigan) coach (Lloyd) Carr — he is a father figure to everyone. He turned boys into men and just taught you to do the right thing. He taught you to practice hard and just carry yourself in the right way in everyday life and in the NFL. I learned a lot from him. I also learned a lot from the alumni at Michigan, but he really prepares you. If you listen to him and take everything he told us to heart, that would make you a better person, better player and so I think that’s helped me out in the NFL.
TMD: What do you miss most about college football?
Long: I think I miss the tradition that goes along with it. Just at Michigan, there is so much tradition and having 110,000 people come to every game and all the little things we do before the game and just being there with your friends and living the college life is the best.
TMD: When was the last time you were back at the Big House? What is your favorite memory in the Big House?
Long: The last time I was there was the Iowa game last year. I came to that game. My best memory at the Big House was probably my redshirt freshmen year, we played Michigan State and we went into triple overtime and we beat them in triple overtime. That was pretty cool and it was a great game. I think it was in ’04 and just to battle back and forth, it going into three overtimes and then finally pulling off the win in the end. That was definitely one of my best memories.
TMD: Do you have any thoughts on this year’s Michigan squad? What advice would you give to the young guys on Michigan’s offensive line?
Long: I’m excited about this year. I think coach Hoke is such a great coach. He’s just that type of coach. He’s a Michigan man and he does all the right things. He’s been doing such a great job recruiting and I’m really excited about where this program’s going and what we’re going to do this year.
As for the guys on the offensive line, I watch them pretty much all the time and when I watch a game its hard to watch anything else. They played well last year and we have Taylor coming back and we have some big recruits coming in, and I think they’re going to do a great job of making some holes and protecting the QB, so it’s going to be fun to watch.