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Ortiz: Ex-Ram Chris Long still makes impact in St. Louis

Jose de Jesus Ortiz is sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The little boy didn’t know what to say. He merely smiled and shrugged his shoulders as former Rams defensive end Chris Long complimented the new gray and green coat the boy had picked out from the Little Bit Foundation’s “boutique” at Patrick Henry Downtown Academy.

“You’re looking sharp,” Long told the boy at the school a short walk from the Dome where he tormented opposing quarterbacks for eight years with the Rams.

Long returned to St. Louis on Wednesday for the first time in a little more than two years, but in many ways it was as though he never left. That’s how much this community still feels like home for a man who played with the Rams from 2008 through 2015.

He capped the whirlwind two-day visit with a stop at Patrick Henry Downtown Academy, one of 32 St. Louis area schools that receive help from the Little Bit Foundation.

As has been well chronicled already, Long donated his entire 2017 salary to promote educational equality in the United States. The Chris Long Foundation donated $284,000 to St. Louis area groups as part of the second phase of an initiative that began when he promised to donate his first six paychecks to fund scholarships in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Long, who was an All-America selection at the University of Virginia before the Rams made him the second pick in the 2008 draft, displayed his altruistic nature often during his eight seasons in St. Louis. Through his foundation he founded Waterboys, which has helped build 33 water wells in East Africa since 2015.

He held an event Wednesday night in St. Louis to raise funds for his Waterboys projects.

“It was awesome,” he said. “It again drives home the fact that you might move on in life and go somewhere else but good relationships remain intact. It’s been two years since I’ve been here for a lot of scheduling reasons, for football and whatnot. But I saw some people last night, picked up right where I left off.

“St. Louis being the place that funded our first three of 32 wells it’s where it started. Without St. Louis we would never be able to have the momentum we have now to roll out a new goal for providing a million people with clean water.”

This summer the entire sports world found out what many in St. Louis already knew: Long is strong enough to speak on social issues. More importantly, he works toward making a positive impact by working to end education inequality. He also has won consecutive Super Bowl titles since leaving the Rams, first with the New England Patriots and then with the Philadelphia Eagles this year.

Long made his voice heard after a Ku Klux Klan rally in his adopted hometown of Charlottesville this summer. Soon after a woman died in the aftermath of that KKK rally, Long promised to donate his first six paychecks of the 2017 season with the Eagles to fund scholarships in Charlottesville.

He eventually decided to donate his entire 2017 salary by committing his final 10 paychecks to promote educational equality in the three cities where he has played professionally — St. Louis, Boston and Philadelphia.

Through his Pledge 10 for Tomorrow initiative, he picked the Little Bit Foundation and College Bound as the two St. Louis programs to support. He gave those two groups a combined $284,000 to support programs that work to help under-served students achieve educational success.

College Bound’s mission focuses on helping students from economically disadvantaged areas as they attempt to attain college degrees. The Little Bit Foundation provides basic needs to more than 9,000 students in 31 of the poorest schools in the St. Louis area.

Long’s $150,000 donation to the Little Bit Foundation helps provide students with gently used clothes, shoes, books, deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash and other basics such as socks and underwear.

The Little Bit Foundation provides students at Patrick Henry Downtown Academy crucial essentials that are usually taken for granted in affluent or middle class schools in the St. Louis area.

As Long saw firsthand Thursday, a gently used jacket is crucial for a child from a school where 100 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

“His visit and his involvement with Little Bit allows the Little Bit Foundation to continue services,” Patrick Henry principal Colby Heckendorn said. “They make sure all of our students have school uniforms, school supplies, eye exams. His donation and his being here helps sustain that work.”

Long spent about an hour visiting with the students Thursday. He visited children at the school’s Little Bit “boutique” and then went to the free book fair in another part of the building.

He engaged the children, complimented their new books or clothing items. In the children and the Little Bit Foundation volunteers he saw willing soldiers in the fight for educational equality in America.

There’s no cheering in the press box, but dang if you didn’t want to hug the 6-foot-3, 270-pound giant.

To be clear, we refer to him as a giant for his actions off the field, not his frame.

“I don’t want to just be the guy just giving a couple of bucks or a lot of money to a cause,” he said. “I want to be involved in it, and I want to meet the people who are really making a difference.

“That’s the volunteers here, the teachers, the principal, and see how Little Bit Foundation works, how their boots-on-the-ground folks are entrenched here and the great work they do and why these kids find it so effective and trust these people so much.”

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Darling scores big at St. Francis lecture series

Discussing “Failures and Triumphs” former New York Met pitcher and current SNY broadcaster Ron Darling addressed an auditorium of fans and McGuire Scholarship students at this spring’s National Grid lecture series at St. Francis College. 

In 2015, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon and former NYPD Commissioner Robert McGuire were asked to start a scholarship fund for financially disadvantaged students entering St. Francis College which eventually became known as the McGuire Scholarships.

Now, three years later, Career Development Vice President Thomas Flood was hosting guest speaker Ron Darling to give career advice to a group of McGuire Scholarship recipients at this spring’s National Grid lecture series.

Introduced by National Grid Business President Ken Daly from the class of SFC ’88, former New York Met pitcher Darling recounted some of the highlights of his career journey that led him to the Mets SNY broadcast booth in 2006 as a baseball TV analyst.  

According to the Honolulu-born right-hander who grew up in Massachusetts, baseball wasn’t a real serious career consideration for Darling while attending Yale until he pitched a summer in the Cape Cod League.

After excelling in that league for promising collegiates, Darling figured that pitching in major league baseball for about five years would be a practical way to pay off his student loans after graduation.

Little did he know that his decision to enter the major league draft would begin a baseball career spanning over 13 years during which he accumulated a 136-116 record with 1,590 strikeouts, playing with four different teams.

After being drafted by the Texas Rangers and spending only two years in the minors, Darling was traded to the Mets with whom his career blossomed. He became a 1985 All Star and a member of one of the best starting rotations in the National League which led New York to its seven-game, drama-filled 1986 World Series win over Boston.

Following the advice of then-Met pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, Darling credits the former Yankee great for teaching him how to become a successful pitcher by not overpowering batters, but by harnessing his control “to throw a basket full of outs” to the catcher.

Proud to report that he was never on the disabled list over his 13-year career, Darling learned that precision, power and endurance were the key elements to stay on the mound.

As an SNY broadcaster, Darling has become known for his passion to “call the game the correct way” for Met fans who deserve honest commentary even if his assessments rub the players or management the wrong way.

Darling counts himself very fortunate to be paired with lifelong Met fan Gary Cohen and former teammate Keith Hernandez as his broadcast partners. He described their broadcast as “free form jazz that allows each of us to roll and come back in.”

Such was the case in June of 2012 when Darling and Hernandez nodded to each other and pulled back to allow Cohen to call the end of Johan Santana’s historic Mets’ first no-hitter. According to Darling, that magical night in the booth was thus far his best broadcast moment.

In conclusion, Darling told the students to discover their passion and to pursue it despite failures they will encounter. “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying,” he said. “If you have passion for something, you’ll work harder for it.”


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Clyde Drexler named BIG3 commissioner

ESPN March 15, 2018

Basketball Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler has signed a three-year deal to become the commissioner of the BIG3, the league announced Thursday.


Drexler replaces Roger Mason Jr., who confirmed in a statement on Monday that he had been terminated from the role.

The BIG3 is a 3-on-3 basketball league founded by actor/rapper Ice Cube that features mostly retired NBA players. After last year's inaugural season, it will return this summer, featuring former players Metta World PeaceAmar'e StoudemireGlen "Big Baby" DavisNate Robinsonand Baron Davis.

"Clyde is a consummate professional, revered businessman and indisputably one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball," said league co-founders and co-CEOs Jeff Kwatinetz and Ice Cube. "We were thrilled to have his early support as a coach for our inaugural season and couldn't be more pleased to welcome him to the executive team as BIG3 Commissioner."

A 10-time All-Star, Drexler -- named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history -- helped lead the Houston Rockets to the NBA title in 1995.

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UVA alumnus Chris Long has parlayed the fame and fortune of a standout pro football career into a platform to advance several charitable causes, including clean water for Africa and educational equity at home. (Photo courtesy of the Chris Long Foundation)

March 13, 2018 

umnus Chris Long, who has used a standout professional football career as a platform to advance charitable causes, including wider access to education and safe water sources in Africa, will be the featured speaker at the University of Virginia’s Valedictory Exercises, to be held May 18 on the Lawn.

The ceremony, is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. and includes the presentation of the Class of 2018’s gift to University President Teresa A. Sullivan, as well as various class and University awards. Admission is free, and the public is invited to attend. (In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved to John Paul Jones Arena; seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis, with doors opening at 1:30 p.m.)

Long, who studied sociology at UVA, said he was “extremely surprised and honored” to be invited to speak.

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Chris Long Howie Roseman 81st Annual Maxwell Football Gala

Cosmo DeNicola and Leigh Steinberg present Philadelphia Eagle's VP of Operations, Howie Roseman, and Defensive End, Chris Long, with the Steinberg-DeNicola Humanitarian Award at the 81st Annual Maxwell Football Gala. Atlantic City, Friday March 9th, 2018.





Chris Long named as the recipient of the 2018 Steinberg DeNicola Humanitarian award being presented at the 81st Annual Maxwell Football Gala

Steinberg DeNicola Announce NFL Active Player Recipient of Humanitarian Award

Cosmo DeNicola and Leigh Steinberg of Steinberg Sports and Entertainment, announced Philadelphia Eagles Defensive End, Chris Long, as the recipient of the 2018 Steinberg DeNicola Humanitarian award being presented at the 81st Annual Maxwell Football Gala. The Humanitarian Active Player award is given to owners, players, coaches and NFL executives that have committed themselves to making contributions in their community. 

“Chris has an engine that never slows down on or off the football field. His sensitivity and awareness of social issues, along with his commitment to his communities, make him on iconic recipient of the Steinberg DeNicola Humanitarian Award," stated Cosmo DeNicola.   

The 2018 winner will be honored Friday, March 9th, 2018 at the 81st Maxwell Club National Awards Gala, which will be held at the Tropicana Casino Resort in Atlantic City, NJ. Also receiving awards at this event will be: Carson Wentz- Philadelphia Eagles (The Bert Bell NFL Player of the Year Award), Doug Pederson- Philadelphia Eagles (Earl “Greasy” Neale Award), Baker Mayfield – University of Oklahoma (Maxwell Award); Minkah Fitzpatrick – University of Alabama (Chuck Bednarik Award); Bill Clark – University of Alabama at Birmingham (The Thomas Brookshier Spirit Award); Duke Greco – Delaware Valley University (Tri-State Coach of the Year); Shaquem Griffin – University of Central Florida (Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion), and Bobby Bowden – Florida State (The Francis Reds Bagnell Award for Contributions to Football).

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