Vikings RB beats Long odds

It was clear that Steven Long was going to be an asset for the Vikings’ football team. The only question was when. Following in the footsteps of his father, Long signed his Letter of Intent with Portland State in 2012. After being a gray-shirt for the fall of 2012 and a red-shirt for all of 2013, Long has extended his eligibility with the Viks and is scorching in his freshman season.

As a senior at Lake Oswego High School, Long dominated Oregon 6A play with 37 touchdowns and 2,205 yards, while leading the team to a 14–0 record. When the freshman lists one of his favorite hobbies as running, you almost laugh. It’s clear Long loves to run, and more than anything, run all over opposing defenses come game day.

Though he dominated the field, lettered in both track and football and was nationally recognized when he was named ESPN 6A Player of the Year, it hasn’t always been a direct path for Long.

In the spring of 2013, Long was told he would need brain surgery to remove a lesion that proved problematic. This injury and resulting surgery sidelined Long for six full months and put his football career in jeopardy.

Coming back from injury, he was originally listed as third on the running back depth chart, and it looked like carries would be few and far between for Long. With the rushing ability of quarterbacks Kieran McDonagh and Paris Penn, along with a stacked backfield boasting the talents of Nate Tago and senior Shaq Richard, finding a place in the offense for Long was a slow process.

In the opening game of the season against Oregon State, Long wasn’t even utilized and had to sit back as the Viks lost by more than two touchdowns. The next week, against Western Oregon, he saw his first playing time with two carries for eight yards. It was a crowded but successful day in the backfield, as seven Vikings players rushed the ball and amassed 285 yards on the ground.

Long’s carries increased the next week as he toted the rock nine times for 36 yards, for a respectable 4 yards per carry. It quickly became clear to offensive coordinator Bruce Barnum that he had something special in his freshman running back. This resulted in Long getting the second most carries for the team against Cal Poly. He ripped out an explosive 27-yard scamper and posted PSU’s first score of the game.

Long nearly disappeared in weeks five and six while Richard and Tago started to find their footing in the backfield, and the smallest running back for the Viks, at 5 feet 7 inches tall and 180 pounds, saw his carries drop.

Everything changed in week seven. Long erupted for 253 yards on only 16 carries. For those of you keeping track, that’s nearly 16 yards each time Long was called upon. He also found a groove in the passing game, catching three passes for 44 additional yards. In total, Long accounted for 299 offensive yards, making up nearly 75 percent of the Vikings’ offense on the day. He was also responsible for a huge touchdown when he ripped off a 62-yard burst down the field and tied up the game during the second half.

Long will look to continue making strides when the Vikings travel to Sacramento State University Saturday at 2 p.m.