There’s a reason beyond football that led redshirt junior offensive tackle Jake Long to pass up this April’s NFL Draft – where he likely would have been a first-round selection – and return for his last year of eligibility.

Trevor Campbell

He’s also looking forward to what the 2007-08 season will bring off of the gridiron.

“This was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had,” Long said. “Football was great, school was great and life was great.”

Long, who is a general studies major, lists music classes as his favorite. He has a strong desire to get a degree before he goes onto a professional football career. And just like any other Michigan student, he laments about how much time he must spend in the fishbowl.

But Long understands that his exploits on the field lead to more scrutiny than an average student is used to.

“When you’re in the spotlight, people notice you more,” Long said. “I’m conscious of that, so I don’t put myself in bad places. I don’t want people to think of me

as a bad person because I’m not.”

There was nothing bad about Long’s performance on the field in 2006-07.

Coming off an injury-plagued season during the 2005-06 campaign, Long was still elected a captain of this year’s team. He more than lived up to the pressure that comes with a leadership role.

Following the regular season, Long was named a consensus All-American, a unanimous all-Big Ten first team selection and Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. He was also a key cog in Michigan’s run to the Rose Bowl.

But ask Long about his favorite moment from the 11-2 season, and the answer has nothing to do with all of those individual accolades.

“I will always remember when we went down to South Bend and beat Notre Dame,” Long said. “At that point in the season, nobody gave us much of a chance, and we were a huge underdog. But we came out with a win and it carried us through the rest of the season.”

The high of that win over the Fighting Irish only made the close to the season, in which a previously undefeated Wolverine squad lost to Ohio State and then USC in the Rose Bowl, that much harder to swallow.

But Long is past that and is now looking ahead to his final year of being a student and donning the winged helmet.

“Myself and the team came a long way this year and proved a lot of people wrong,” Long said. “I’m satisfied, yet disappointed. It’s just left me wanting more.”

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