Lions and Spartans take notice: The name is Long, Jake Long!

Hondo S. Carpenter

Lions and Spartans take notice:Â The name is Long, Jake Long!

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He is as nice of a young man as he is a great football player. He doesn’t make mistakes, and even if he is a Wolverine, when you meet him you can’t help but like him. His name is Jake Long, and he is the best player in college football and should be the number one draft pick in the 2007 draft. He won’t be, but I said he should.

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NFL GM’s want sizzle not steak with the first couple of picks in the draft. So in a draft that will see some promising QB’s and RB’s he won’t go number one overall, but don’t make the mistake of thinking the University of Michigan’s Jake Long isn’t a stud.

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When UM dropped the first two games of the season it was Long who helped steady the ship. When UM took all of the grief that came their way with a loss to a 1-AA team it was Long who faced the fire.

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He is big. He is fast. He doesn’t make mistakes, and he is the reason that the Wolverines have responded to their slow start with a string of wins. The Wolverines are heading into another end of the season meeting with the Buckeyes. If they can continue to put W’s on the board, the single biggest reason is Long.

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He forsook millions of dollars in the NFL draft. A draft that many considered him even better than Joe Thomas (who in my opinion is the clear AFC Rookie of the Year) to come back to play at UM.Â

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I asked Long about not going to the NFL and his answer was heartfelt and moving. “It wasn’t about money to me. I love being a Wolverine. I love coming out of that tunnel. I love Coach Carr and I love Mike and Chad. So many people make choices based on dollars. The money will be there for me. I just wanted to come back because at the end of the day, football is a game. It is a game that I love and I love playing it at the University of Michigan. I will play one day in the NFL and it will be a game I still love, but everyone talks about it as a business. Coming back wasn’t a difficult choice at all. I love where I am at, and what I am doing so why leave?”

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When Mike Hart needs yards, you can find him hiding behind the mountain known as Long. When Henne drops, you can see him get behind Long. When the team is huddled and you need a leader’s voice, Hart and Henne look to Long. He is the leader on that team. He is the man. He doesn’t care if Hart and Henne get the attention he knows he is the leader. At the Big Ten media day before the season he was shocked when I wanted to talk to him and not Hart or Henne.Â

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In an era of arrogant athletes he is humble. In a time when the RB and QB spots get all the press, he is comfortable knowing that he has their respect, and trust me he does. QB Chad Henne described Long’s influence like this to me, “Jake is our glue. He is what this team is about. There isn’t a single player on this team more important than Jake.” Hart had similar sentiments when he said, “All of the credit I get, and every yard I gain is truly because of Jake Long. I can’t imagine there being a better tackle at any level anywhere.”

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Let’s hope that the Lions trade up and do whatever it takes to add this man to their offensive line next season. He is truly a difference-maker and a star. The refreshing thing is that he doesn’t act like it.

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Sure it is rivalry week. Sure both sides like to hand out eternal hate and jabs, but one thing is clear. Spartans may hate the Wolverine program, but you can’t help but like the best player in all of college football: Jake Long. He is what college football is all about. He is what being a great kid is all about. In an era with entourages and bling, he is simply the gigantic down to earth star that people aren’t used to.

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The Spartan Nation can all take smack and make jokes this week, that is what the rivalry is about, but at the end of the day many of us are from Michigan and are Lions fans. Let’s hope Millen finds a way to land this young man in Motown.

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If the Spartans win on Saturday, they will have to key in on wherever Long is. You can’t miss him. He is the gigantic young man standing to Henne’s left. Keep an eye on him, because no matter what they do, he is their anchor and their rock. Chances are the play is coming his way.

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I asked Long about the MSU vs. UM rivalry and I thoroughly expected him to throw out some smack. He again shocked me with, “I think the MSU rivalry is real special. I don’t get it when people say that the Spartans aren’t a rival. That is ridiculous. That game is huge every year. Everywhere you go in this State people have a thought or an opinion. They have great fans and I can tell you that they have a lot of good guys on that team. I not only think it is a rival, but it is a special rival and those kind of games are what makes college football so great.”

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Again, you may hate the Wolverines, but you can’t hate that kid. What a great football player. What a great young man. Let’s just make sure he ends up in Detroit on draft day and after a loss on Saturday!

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