The NFL came calling, and Jerome Long put America’s Team on hold.
He had a baby to see delivered.
Long, a former Morro Bay High football standout, welcomed a baby girl to his young family this past weekend then caught a flight to Dallas, where he signed a free-agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday.
“They wanted to fly me out last Wednesday,” said Long, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound second-year defensive tackle out of San Diego State. “When they called me, I told them about the birth. They said it was more important that I be there for that.”
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It was a whirlwind week for Long and wife Kalynn, college sweethearts who were married last spring. But with the arrival of the couple’s first child hectic enough, Long’s signing relieves the stress of Jerome having to worry about looking for work.
He will be with the Cowboys when they open camp in Oxnard on July 19, and his signing comes five days after Dallas released defensive end Anthony Hargrove, one of the players suspended in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.
Though Long’s spot on the team is still far from guaranteed, the signing is a load off his mind.
“It’s definitely a huge relief to know that I’ve got this month to look forward to training camp,” Long said, “rather than having to wait until somebody gets hurt and a spot opens up down the line.
“Just like any other opportunity, you have to make the best of whatever opportunity you get in the NFL and impress anybody you can. It’s kind of the same as last year. For a new guy in the NFL, every summer is a dangerous time. You have to be on your ‘A’ game and be consistent.”
Long began his pro career as a seventh-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs last year and spent nearly the entire season on the Chiefs’ practice squad.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that indicated pre-draft interest in Long, claimed him prior to the regular-season finale, but after head coach Mike Mularkey was fired after just one 2-14 season — the worst in franchise history — in January, the entire staff turned over, and the new coaches released Long in April.
A starter for most of his career at San Diego State, including early playing time in his collegiate debut against Cal Poly in the 2008 season opener, Long finished his Aztecs career with 163 tackles and four sacks.
At Morro Bay, Long was a two-time All-County selection in football and advanced to the state meet as a heavyweight wrestler his senior season.
He received action last preseason with the Chiefs but has yet to play a regular-season down.
This year, Long has a better understanding of the NFL atmosphere and can better mentally prepare having that knowledge.
“It’s just a better sense of preparation and training,” Long said. “I’ve got a better feel for it this year, and I’m going to go into camp more prepared for it than I did last year with the Chiefs. It’s not as much of a culture shock like it was last year. It’s vastly different from college to professional, and that made a big impact last year.”