Posted by Michael McAllister

Chuck Long, famed Iowa Hawkeye quarterback of the 1980s, spoke to Grinnell Rotarians on Tuesday, April 10, in connection with Aaron Putze’s book about Long’s career, Chuck Long:  Destined for Greatness.  Long met the public that afternoon at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance and visited the West Side Family Restaurant that evening where the Rotary Club meets weekly.

Long shared jokes and stories, answered questions, and led Rotarians to pleasant reminiscences (the Bootleg) of his 1981-85 career and his role in the resurrection of Iowa football.

Born a “Boomer Schooner” in Norman, Oklahoma, Long grew up in Wheaton, Illinois, and played football in high school to a fair amount of success (a state title), but he was not recruited heavily.  However, one evening in December 1980, he answered the phone and found himself speaking to a man he described as “the great Bill Snyder,” one of Hayden Fry’s coaches, who invited him to fly to Iowa for the weekend.

In short order, Long said, “I knew I wanted to be a Hawkeye.”

Chuck Long:  Destined for Greatness was written by Waukee Rotarian Aaron Putze.  It was at Putze’s urging, in fact, that Long agreed to the project.  Long had thought that a book might be something appropriate in the distant future, maybe in his 70s, but Putze suggested rather directly that the quarterback might move up the timetable.  “Your 70s?” Putze exclaimed. “No one will remember you then!”

So, over the course of the next two-and-a-half years, Putze and Long collaborated.  Because Long’s mother had saved every newspaper clipping ever written about him, he was able to give the author a trove of materials.

“It’s a book about me,” Long said, “but it’s really a book about the resurgence of Iowa football, and all of you were a part of that.”

Long played in five bowl games while at Iowa.  He was a Heisman Trophy candidate as both a junior and a senior.  In 1985, a 10-2 record earned the Hawkeyes the Big Ten title.

According to a press release, “Long holds the University of Iowa’s marks for yards passing, completions, touchdown passes and total offense (game, season and career) and pass attempts in a season and career”—all of which qualify him as “the most accurate passer in Big Ten history.”

After college, the quarterback turned pro and took the field for the Detroit Lions and the Los Angeles Rams.  He also held several coaching positions in the years that followed.

Long is now Executive Director and CEO of the Iowa Sports Foundation (located, ironically enough, in Ames), the organization that administers Live Healthy Iowa, the Iowa Games, Adaptive Sports Iowa, and the Iowa Senior Games.

Affable, charismatic, and thoroughly down-to-earth, Long delivered a lively, informative, nostalgia-laced presentation that delighted Rotarians.  Following his talk, he graciously signed books and other memorabilia and posed for pictures.

The Grinnell Rotary Club meets every Tuesday at 6 p.m. at West Side Dining on 6th Ave., Grinnell.