September 3, 2007
After each of his team's nine losses last season, San Diego State head coach Chuck Long would walk down the hall from his team's locker room and into the pressroom. It's an unpleasant stroll for anyone to make because of the smell. Think it for a second; 60 sweat soaked pads, 60 dirty jerseys and 120 pairs of football cleats. That thought should turn away anyone who's ever wanted to get inside the locker room.
I suppose that after a lifetime in locker rooms, Long's been desensitized to this, but there was another scent that followed him around that he couldn't seem to get used to - failure. Not for someone who was the Heisman runner-up to Bo Jackson and the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma.
Long's first season as head coach at SDSU was probably the toughest of his career. He inherited a team that didn't have a tenth of the talent of his previous squad and his inexperience with being the top guy in charge showed. It was an unenviable position for anyone to be in, but a coach's true greatness is judged on when he's confronted with adversity, not when he's calling toss plays for Adrian Peterson.
(To give Long a break for a second, he did face more problems then any first year coach should. His starting quarterback Kevin O'Connell was injured in the first game of the year. His starting running back Lynell Hamilton proved incapable of bouncing back from yet another injury. Hamilton has had more work done than the Six Million Dollar Man. His defense returned nine starters and they all seemed to have forgotten how to tackle over the summer. These are problems that he couldn't control and shouldn't be on the hook for. More on this later.)
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