May 27, 2017

Deon Long | The Redemption

“We had some 7-9 Bull***it this morning. Now Deon’s gone. That is 7-9 Bull***t. And we don’t need it.”

 Former LA Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher- HBO Hard Knocks

That 20-second clip from last year’s HBO chronicle of Los Angeles Rams training camp has haunted Deon Long ever since. The athletic wide receiver admits he will one day laugh about it but as he continues his quest to find a roster spot at BC Lions mini-camp, he still can’t shake off the bad publicity that followed him out the Rams’ door last August.

“It still bothers me to this day,” explained Long after day one of practice in Kamloops.

“I can’t Google my name and I can’t go anywhere in LA without someone saying ‘Hey I saw you on Hard Knocks.’ Even though it’s not a true story of what really happened, it motivates me a lot to come out here.”

Long’s release, and subsequent rant by Fisher, was the result of the receiver allegedly having a woman in his dorm. Long is adamant he never brought anyone to his room, never once missed curfew and at least one member of the organization vouched for him. He still takes responsibility after being seen with someone on the campus where camp was being held.

“I owned up to it right when it happened. I knew I shouldn’t have had anyone in the vicinity for the three weeks, the same thing I will do with the BC Lions. It is straight football for three weeks here.”

After three college transfers and some less than stellar publicity in Los Angeles, Long also admits he has some growing up to do. And he will forever be grateful to the Lions for allowing him to resurrect himself as a player and a person. He was originally added to the practice roster as part of the NFL expansion period last September.

“I’m really excited, man. I have been in this playbook and I have one of my guys Keith Price coming back. He helps out a lot. It should be a smooth camp,”added Long.

Long and Price became instant friends when they met late last season. Working together on the scout team and trying to prove themselves against the starting defence in practice can have that effect.

The Washington, DC native is especially excited to learn and compete with the outstanding group of receivers on this roster. Having starters like Manny Arceneaux, Bryan Burnham, Chris Williams, Nick Moore and Marco Iannuzzi is almost like an entire coaching staff in itself.

“I look forward to learning from them a lot. As I’ve said, they’ve been here several years and I have seen them do it before I even came to the BC Lions,” recalled Long.

“Just to meet those guys and be around them with the camaraderie we have, everybody wants to see everybody succeed. Even though it’s not realistic for 10 receivers to make a team, I just like the positivity this group brings.”

Positivity is a key part of Long’s DNA. It was evident right from his arrival last season, when he would be one of the first players dancing and grooving to the music when stretching would begin at practice.

“I am a guy that’s going to go 100 percent every single play. I am going to bring the energy to practice, even if it’s raining, super sunny or snowing. That’s the kind of player I am.”

 “I just want to be better at everything I was coached up on at OTA in April. I want to show them I’m a deep threat, that I can cover punts, anything they want me to do is basically what I want to show them I can do.”

And perhaps his best trait is that he holds no grudges. Which is especially important in football where player and coaching turnover has all the characteristics of a tire shop.

“There is a lot of good to coach Fisher, and that just shocked me that he released me because of that. If I see him, I’ll shake his hand. He is a respectable guy when you look at all he has done.”

Perhaps there is a CFL documentary in Deon Long’s future. Only up here, much more positive.

Matt Baker: