NORMAN — Chuck Long's Friday nights the last two autumns were simple. Grab a pizza, get on the Internet to listen to K-REF radio, then wait for the phone call from his son.
This autumn will be better. Much better.
Long will be there live for his son's senior year of football at Norman High School. Zach Long has quarterbacked Norman the past two seasons, while his dad was Turner Gill's offensive coordinator at the University of Kansas.
KU fired Gill and his staff last November. And now Long has but one thing to say to the Jayhawk brass.
Oh, Long doesn't say that verbally. Too much pride in any coach to say that. But Long has to feel it. KU gave him a blessed gift.
Jobs come and go and come again. But here's what comes and goes and does not return: your son's senior year.
“No one likes to get let go, but that's been the silver lining,” Long said. “I've only seen two of his games the last two years.”
Now Long is making up for lost time. He's working with his son and Norman receivers this summer. He plans to help out the Tigers this season, with the blessing of coach Greg Nation.
“It's great having him around again,” said Zach. “Obviously I was upset he was let go, but Coach Nation talked to me. ‘Hey, you think your dad would be interested in helping out?' After that, I got excited. What's more comfortable than having your dad around?”
Long spent six seasons as OU's quarterback coach or offensive coordinator, then three years as head coach at San Diego State. The Aztecs fired Long at the end of the 2008 season. The family stayed in San Diego another year, but when Kansas came calling, the Longs had a decision to make.
Stay in San Diego, where Zach's older brother, Nathan, was midway through his junior year of high school, or return to Norman, where Long roots run generationally deep.
Nathan decided he wanted to return to Norman for his senior year, and Zach endorsed the move, too.
“All my friends were here,” Zach said. “I liked San Diego, I liked going to the beach, but the people here, I grew up with them since I was five years old. It was really easy making the decision.”
And it kept alive the Longs' Norman High School tradition. Chuck's father, Charlie Long, was a 1956 Norman graduate and a member of the Tigers' 1955 state champion basketball team. Chuck's grandfather once was mayor of Norman.
Chuck grew up in Wheaton, Ill., and became a star quarterback at Iowa; he was runner-up to Bo Jackson in the 1985 Heisman Trophy vote.
Long was coaching at his alma mater, but when Bob Stoops offered his old Iowa teammate a job in December 1999, Long was quick to jump to his father's hometown.
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