Oregon offensive tackle Kyle Long has taken a winding road to the NFL. His first love was baseball, the sport he nearly pursued professionally when he was selected in the 23rd round of the 2008 Major League Baseball Draft out of high school.
Instead of signing with a major league team, Long chose to play collegiate baseball at Florida State. But he never ran onto the diamond as a Seminole because of substance-abuse problems. He spent four months at a substance-abuse facility after a DUI arrest. The day he got out of treatment, he decided he wanted to play football again.
"When I got out treatment, I had a lot of stuff that I needed to release physically," Long told Yahoo! Sports for their excellent "Dream Chasers" series.
Long spent two seasons getting his grades up at junior college before using his final year of eligibility at Oregon. He sat on the bench until the eighth game of the season, when he got a chance to play at guard. The son of NFL great Howie Long and the brother of St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long is now viewed as a possible second- or third-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft because of his high ceiling and athleticism.
"I've known too many people that have passed away after getting into what they got themselves into. I've lived with people that passed away because of addiction. I'll never take a day for granted. I'll never take a rep for granted," Long said.
Without his immense talent, no one would be interested in telling Long's story. But it's hard not to be affected when listening to him. It's hard not to believe he's going to make good on his incredible opportunity.
"I'll forever be indebted to football because it was my savior. My family was my support system, but football is the cradle that I'm in all the time," he said. "I've loved my journey. I'm sitting here, ready to go to the NFL."
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.