Rose Bowl brings back fond memories for Aztecs' Long
Sept. 07, 2019
Sep. 7--Rocky Long remembers how special it was some 60 years ago when he got to go to the Rose Bowl with his father.
"I went to two Rose Bowl games as a spectator when I was a kid with my dad," he said.
An even more special moment came in 1996, which was the first of two seasons Long spent as the Bruins' defensive coordinator before getting his first head coaching job at New Mexico in 1998.
"It was a big deal to me when I coached at UCLA and we played the first home game," Long said. "To walk out there on the field ... that was unbelievable to me."
Even more unbelievable were the players UCLA had on defense back in those days.
Long joined the Bruins staff after five seasons as defensive coordinator at Oregon State, where the talent level could be summed up by this note: In 1993, Sports Illustrated named Beavers head coach Jerry Pettibone national coach of the year after his team won four games.
"It was absolutely shocking to me the difference in talent level," Long said.
Long's defense ranked among the national leaders.
"Everybody asked me how I did that," he said. "How did you scheme it? It was almost the same defense we're running now."
Here's how he did it: Nine players from Long's defensive unit went on to play in the NFL. It included defensive back Shaun Williams, a first-round draft pick in 1998 by the New York Giants.
"I could have put them in any defense," Long said. "Oh, my god."
The defense was strong from front to back, but was deepest in the secondary.
"At one time we had five DBs out there at the same time who all played in the NFL," said Long, referring to Williams, Larry Atkins, Anthony Cobb, Tod McBride and Wasswa Serwanga.
"You know, we played pretty good coverage," Long sad. "We really did."
(c)2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune
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