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Bears DT Took the Long Way to Cal

October 29, 2021

Cal junior defensive lineman Darius Long took a circuitous route to Berkeley, overcoming injuries and putting in four years of time and effort to get from Encinal High School in Alameda to where he is now.

“I went to College of San Mateo and played in 2017 but got hurt,” said Long. “I got injured really late so I didn’t play in the 2018 season and right before the 2019 season, I got injured again and didn’t play.”

Long is now two years removed from his meniscus injury. His surgery, performed by Cal surgeon Dr. Rick Hatch was successful and Long feels healthy and strong.

“In 2020, California JCs didn’t play so our program arranged to have intersquad scrimmages on Saturdays so coaches could get our film out. We were one of just 3 or 4 programs who were able to practice that year.”

Long’s connection with former CSM player and curreent Director of on campus recruiting Benji Palu as well as highlights from the intersquad scrimmages got him on the Bears’ radar along with offers from Fresno State and several other programs, not to mention recruiting attention from Auburn and more. 

“You won't find a harder-working kid than Darius,” said CSM head coach Tim Tulloch when Long committed. “He was taking three different types of public transportation to get out here from Alameda and always worked hard to rehab from his injuries and continue to improve.

“Cal's getting a very athletic player up the middle who’s a fast-twitch kid with good feet and burst and strong hands who’s going to give them good depth and maturity in Darius.”

The 22 year old DL has not had the opportunity to see the field much with the Bears not finding themselves in too many obvious passing situations but their dominant defense versus Colorado gave the 6-3/300 Long several chances to shine. He credits some of his success to the patient coaching of Cal DL coach Andrew Browning.

“I’m really comfortable with the defense at this point,” said Long. 

“Coach Browning -we’re pretty close. Basically, every since I’ve committed, he’s been helping me learn the defense and helping me out with the transition. He’s just been a really positive guiding influence. His coaching style is very focused on detail but he’ll always take the time to make corrections for all the guys. He treats us all fairly, treats us all the same. Overall, he’s just really a great coach.”

“We're very happy to have Darius,” said Browning. “He's a great young man. He works extremely hard. He's an older guy who's mature. With his journey, he’s been through a lot to get to this point. He's just been working on picking up our scheme and the technique is a big part of it, as well. He's been really, really working and he's been improving every single week, which has led to him being on some packages.

“He's a naturally powerful guy and has quickness and has done some things in practice rushing the passer.”

Long played both defensive tackle and defensive end at Encinal High School in Alameda and at CSM and has played a bit of both at Cal, as well.

“In our odd front, I’m playing left end, right end and nose,” said Long. And in our even front, I play the theee and two eye. Pretty much everywhere except the edges.”

Long got his first sack as a Bear on Saturday in Cal’s 26-3 win over Colorado. His sack was one of Cal’s season-high six sacks on the day.

“We ran a little stunt because it was third and long and we knew most likely we could put pressure on the quarterback,” said Long. “So we ran a stunt. OP (OLB Orin Patu) did a really good job of selling and taking the tackle’s eye and I was just scot free off the edge.”

After losing five of their first six games, the win was a welcome respite from the disappointment of several near misses in prior games. But don’t expect them to come in overconfident against OSU and their top-rated Pac-12 running game.

“It does help to boost our confidence and get a win and have all our hard work pay off,” said Long. “But we respect every team and come to work every week with the same attitude, looking to just stop the run and force them to be one dimensional and take it from there.

“Overall, they have a good O-line. It's a bunch of veteran guys. They’ve all been playing together for some years now. They have a couple of really good backs. They’re just a really good, cohesive team. Not anything insane, like we’re some massive underdog but they’re a really good team. They’re going to bring their stuff and we’re going to bring ours and we’re gonna let it all play out on Saturday.”

After four years in the JuCo system, his experience at Cal has been a dream come true for Long.

“It’s pretty much exceeded everything I was expecting,” said Long. “The school, the amount of support, the level of education from all the professors here and all the staff -the whole transition has been pretty easy, to be honest. As football players, we have all the good food and snacks we need, the extra gear. You can just feel the attention to detail and all the time and effort they put into everything.”

Long is a legal studies major at Cal and the experience academically has been as satisfying as his experience with the football program so far.

“All my professors have been really good and supportive,” said Long. “One of my classes is really big but the others are smaller so I've been able to get some good time with my professors.”

Long is a part of a position group that prides itself on their closeness, something that’s made his transition to Cal that much easier.

“Honestly, I'd argue that we’re one of the tightest knit groups on the team,” said Long. “Super cool group of guys. They brought me in with open arms. JH (Tevis), Luc (Bequette) -the older guys- showed me the ropes. I love those guys.

“I think the thing I struggled with initially was just finding my role. You get dropped into a brand new team and it's easy to wonder, ‘Who am I going to be on this team? How am I going to contribute?’ And they never put pressure on me or looked down on me. It was just showing me that we’re all working and we’re all a team. Just a great amount of unity to fit in with the team.”

Preseason fall camp interview in August:

Long’s transition to Cal's strength and conditioning program has been a particularly positive experience as well.

“It's been really good,” said Long. “I've really benefited from it being here just three or four months. It's interesting; I've maintained my weight but I've gotten much leaner and quicker, with more functional kind of strength, improving my ability to push and move and apply that to my game. My density and body shape has been changing noticably. They work really hard in keeping track of our vitals and day to day nicks and bruises. Just a really good group of guys who take care of us, for sure.”

Though much like him till last week, Cal's three new frosh defensive linemen -DEs Akili Calhoun, Derek Wilkins and Miles Williams- haven't yet had much of a chance to display their talents on the field for Cal fans. But according to Long, don’t let the early lack of playing time for the young trio fool you. They can play, too.

“They’re super humble guys,” said Long. “They work extremely hard and they're really talented, that’s for sure. They come to practice every day with a smile on their face and a great attitude, whether they're on Scout team -just whatever they’re doing, they bring it. They're definitely very promising in the way they carry themselves and in their maturity.”

Though Long is four years their senior, he carries himself  much the same way on and off the field.

“I'm really happy for Darius that when he had the opportunity this last weekend, he produced," said Browning.”

Hopefully the first of many sacks to come.

More stories:

OSU Preview: The Beavers Aren't Pushovers Anymore

OSU Offense Doing More With Less

Discussion from...

Bears DT Took the Long Way to Cal

2,713 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 11 mo ago by MoragaBear
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Sounds like a great guy and I hope to see more of him in opposing backfields the rest of the year.

How long does he have in the program? Is it just this year and next?
Big C
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I just love guys like this! Rooting for you, Darius!
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fat_slice said:

Sounds like a great guy and I hope to see more of him in opposing backfields the rest of the year.

How long does he have in the program? Is it just this year and next?

Unless he's granted an extra medical year, if he plays in 5 games or more, he only has next year.
That might depend on if he was a full qualifier out of high school or not. He didn't use his two years of eligibility in junior college so if he was a full qualifier maybe a medical year would be possible, though I don't know if having his AA would nullify any advantage with being a full qualifier.
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