By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long doesn’t have to look far to find popular and successful family members.
There is his father Howie, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, who was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection for the Oakland Raiders and is now one of the stars on Fox’s NFL pre-game show.
There is also younger brother Kyle, a starting guard and a 2013 first-round pick of the Chicago Bears. And older brother Howie, Jr., who works in the Raiders’ personnel department.
Go way back and you’ll even find ties to Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim across the English Channel.
Chris, himself, is a 10-year NFL veteran and came into the 2017 season sixth among active players in sacks.
Football and athletic accomplishments aside, two other family members who Long admires and appreciates even more are his cousin Nicole Addonizio, and his grandfather Frank Addonizio, who both served in the Army — Frank during World War II.
“No doubt about it,’’ Long said. “The way I look at it we play a game for a living and get a lot of credit and glory, but I like to think about the people doing the jobs that most don’t have the gumption and willingness to do and that’s the people who around the clock are protecting not just our freedom but also protecting those who are not fortunate enough to live in America. Those are the people I hold in very high regard.’’
Earlier in the season Long announced that his first six game checks would go for the scholarships for students in Charlottesville, Virginia where he grew up and played his college football. Later, he announced the next 10 game checks would go to “Pledge 10’’ to help students in St. Louis, Boston, and Philadelphia, the three NFL cities where he played.
Long welcomed his cousin, Nicole, and his good friend and former Seattle Seahawk long snapper Nate Boyer, a Green Beret, to the Eagles’ recent game against the Denver Broncos as part of the NFL’s Salute to Service. He also wore a decal on his jersey that day to pay tribute to the men and women who serve the country.
“The league does a good job of highlighting (the Salute to Service), but it’s on the players to not just be appreciative of our service men and women for one month, but all year,’’ Long said.
Long has done that through his foundation, Waterboys, the cornerstone initiative of the Chris Long Foundation has an annual climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro in tandem with military combat veterans and NFL alumni. Boyer, a good friend of Long’s fits both descriptions.
Known as “Conquering Kili’’ Long and Boyer created the climb with the goal of amplifying awareness of water scarcity, and also to empower NFL alumni and military veterans to continue their commitment to service.
Last year the foundation raised close to $150,000 to fund two water projects in East Africa, which provide clean water to over 66,000 people.
Last year while he was in New England helping the Patriots to another Super Bowl title, Long and his foundation hosted 100 veterans, active service members and their families for a holiday dinner at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Boston.
“The lead initiative of my foundation is clean water, but not far behind it is military appreciation,’’ Long said. “I think for me, it’s just because I picture the jobs these men and women are doing to preserve what we take for granted. It’s cliché, but if you really think, are you willing do those things, I think a lot of us would say, ‘I don’t think we have the courage or I don’t think we have the fortitude.’ These people make it seem so effortless, but it’s very difficult. They’re real heroes, and it’s our job as football players to lift them up and show them our support.’’
“You like to think you would have that kind of bravery, but you don’t know. It’s hard for me to imagine. When you try to compare yourself to what they do, it’s impossible to even fathom. They put their life on the line every day for people they don’t even know.’’