University of Iowa Athletics/courtesy
Legendary Iowa quarterback Chuck Long signs one of his biographies for former Johnson County Attorney J. Patrick White at the Black and Gold Shop in Coralville, Iowa.

How Iowa and Hayden Fry snagged QB Chuck Long in recruiting

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How did Iowa coach Hayden Fry recruit Chuck Long back in 1980?

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa football has staked a reputation of turning unheralded, 2-star prospects into quality football players. Many have become stars.

Then there’s Chuck Long, one of the program’s greatest players. Long was a high school quarterback well before players were tracked by internet sites. He led Wheaton (Ill.) North to a state title in 1979 and a semifinal berth in 1980. But in a ground-control offense, Long was asked to hand off more than pass.

“We threw the ball 4-5 times a game,” Long said. “I set an Illinois state record. We won the state championship my junior year, but I threw for minus-3 yards in that game. I don’t think that will ever be broken.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get recruited, to be honest with you. I didn’t know what my future was going to be. When I was in high school, I was even thinking baseball. Maybe I can play baseball somewhere.”

In his biography Chuck Long: Destined for Greatness, Long said he received letters from Bill Mallory at Northern Illinois and Dennis Green at Northwestern. Then he received one from Iowa coach Hayden Fry.

Long opted to visit Iowa after his senior season in 1980. He instantly was drawn to the community, the campus and the coaching staff, especially Fry.

“I will never forget the first time I shook his hand,” Long said in an interview. “I got off the airplane in Cedar Rapids on my official visit and I went to the Iowa River Power Company – still going in Coralville. That’s where I shook his hand along with his wonderful staff. I knew then there was something really special going on here at Iowa.”

In his book, Long describes how some teachers and even a guidance counselor at Wheaton North tried to dissuade him from attending Iowa.

“Told me more than once that I wouldn’t make it,” Long said in his book.

Still, Long was convinced he could compete at Iowa. He liked what Fry had built, plus he enjoyed offensive coordinator Bill Snyder.

“Hayden saw something in me that I didn’t see really,” Long said. “He took a chance on me. I had to come here and immerse myself in the passing game. I didn’t know anything about the passing game or how to read coverages. So it was a really, really fun experience for me to learn under a great coach in Hayden Fry.

“We weren’t winning yet. But you just had a feeling we were going to.”

Long accepted the scholarship and the rest is history. At the time he left Iowa, Long was the only quarterback in Big Ten history with more than 10,000 career passing yards. He also held the NCAA mark for consecutive completions with 22, which he set at Indiana in 1984.

He owned every Big Ten record of substance, including passing yards (10,461), career completion percentage (.650), season completion percentage (.671 in 1984), touchdown passes in a game (6, twice), touchdown passes in a season (27) and career touchdown passes (74). He remains in the Big Ten’s top 10 in all of those categories.

Oh, and Long played in in two Rose Bowls and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1985. The Big Ten Network named Long the top quarterback of the 1980s. Long was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999 and is one of nine players enshrined on the Kinnick Stadium Wall of Honor.

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