MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–During his tenure at West Virginia, David Long Jr. has turned heads with his style of play and his stellar performance on the field week in and week out.
In nine games this season, the 5-foot-11, 222-pound linebacker recorded 84 tackles, 56 solo. He has 17.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks for the Mountaineers.
On every play, the fiery Long is always buzzing around the field. He has a knack for the game.
“He’s so instinctive, and he understands our scheme, number one,” WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. “He understands what people are trying to do to us. He studies a lot of film, and he has a nose for the ball. He’s special.”
The redshirt junior is the only Power 5 player to record at least one tackle for a loss in every game this season, which speaks volumes to the skillset of Long.
“He’s a good player, he works hard at it,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He’s smart, he has experience, he’s physical, he’s tough, he’s really hard to block. I made that comment to everybody when he was on scout team four years ago. He’s hard to block; his pad level in unreal, he runs underneath blocks or around blocks or through blocks or gets off blocks. He’s, in my opinion, the best linebacker in the country, and people need to take notice of it.
“Just put the video on. I guarantee you that everybody we’ve played would say the same thing. He’s playing at a very high level, and he’s very motivated. He’s our defensive leader and one of our team leaders and captains. People need to take notice of it because he’s playing pretty well. Against Oklahoma State last year, I guarantee they are going to know who he is. He had like 18 tackles and six tackles for loss against these guys last year. He does it every week. I don’t know what he has to do to get some recognition from our conference.”
However, the Cincinnati, Ohio native hasn’t always earned the respect he has now. In 2015, Long was a member of the SCOUT team.
Instead of pouting, he used that in his favor to better himself on and off the field.
“It was very important not to get discouraged or anything,” Long said. “Just to look at it was a way to learn from the players in front of you. Just keep working. Look at the wrongs and the rights and learn how to develop more off the mistakes you seen you made or the people making in front of you.”
As an upperclassman and one of the leaders of the Mountaineer defense, the Winton Woods High School graduate tries to instill that in the younger players and guide them along the way.
“When I get a chance to talk to them, when I get a chance to see them, I just let them know it’s a long journey,” he said. “You’re going to have them days where you are like man I don’t feel like practicing or whatever it comes to being. I just help them in any way I can. Let them know it’s not going to be like that in the long run, you just got to keep on working.”
After all, that is what helps make Long one of, if not the best linebacker, in the nation.
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS