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Sept. 22, 2003

By Tom Price, Gamecock Historian

More than five years ago Kevin Long took a job that enabled him to complete duties by mid-afternoon so he would be free to watch his daughters compete with athletic teams at Irmo High School.

Long works for Atlas Food Service, a Greenville headquartered firm with a substantial operation in Columbia. The company’s Columbia operation services industrial vending machines at locations throughout the Midlands and Pee Dee areas of South Carolina and into North Carolina.

Long starts his workday early and while his daughters were competing at Irmo High School he was usually free to watch them practice or compete.

ldest daughter, Latifa, earned a track and field scholarship to the University of Georgia where three times she was an All American in the high jump. Second daughter, Alisa, is a senior volleyball player at the College of Charleston. Her team won the Southern Conference championship last season and advanced to the NCAA playoffs, losing to Notre Dame. Long’s youngest daughter, Salia, did not compete in varsity sports at Irmo and is now a freshman at South Carolina State University.

Before joining Atlas Food Service, Long worked for Pitney-Bowes selling mailing equipment until caught in a company downsizing and staff reduction. He looks upon the job switch as a blessing because “it enabled me to be home in the afternoons to make the kid’s practices and games.”

Long met his wife, the former Frankie McClary, while both were students at the University of South Carolina. Both earned bachelor’s degrees. He was from Clinton where he starred in football at Clinton High School and she was from Kingstree. They celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary last February.

Kevin came to Carolina on a football scholarship under head coach Paul Dietzel in 1973. He was seldom used until midway through the 1974 season. The Gamecocks lost their first five varsity games that season and Long was thrust into the starting lineup October 19 at Oxford, Miss.

In his first varsity start he rushed for 109 yards and led the Gamecocks to a 10-7 win over the Ole Miss Rebels. That was the first of six triple digit rushing games for Long over the next two and a half seasons. All of the others occurred in 1975, when Kevin was a junior, as he became the first Carolina back to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

Dietzel retired at the end of the 1974 season and was replaced by Jim Carlen who, with the help of Kevin Long and running mate Clarence Williams, took the Gamecocks to a bowl bid in his first season.

In 1975 Long gained 160 yards against N. C. State, 149 against Appalachian State, 133 against Baylor, 128 against Louisiana State, and 103 yards against Virginia.

Long surpassed the 1,000 yard plateau in the 10th game of the season, against Wake Forest, and Williams became a 1,000 yard rusher a week later in a 56-20 win over Clemson in the final regular season game. Long finished the 1975 season with 1,133 yards, an average of 6.0 per carry. Williams was close behind with 1,073, as the Gamecocks became one of few teams to have two 1,000-yard rushers in a season.

Long was generally considered a fullback and Williams a tailback but Long remembers the Gamecocks employed a “weak side halfback (Williams) and a strong side halfback” (Long) with both active as ball carriers and blockers.

For his career Kevin Long rushed for 2,372 yards which currently ranks eighth on Carolina’s all time list. His career average per rush was 5.3. His average of 94.4 yards per game in 1975 is also eighth on the all time list and his career average of 67.8 yards per game ranks seventh.

Long was one of four Gamecocks selected in the National Football League draft in 1976 and all four went on to extended professional careers. Kevin was selected in the seventh round, the 195th pick, by the New York Jets and played five seasons, 1977-81, for the Jets under Coach Walt Michaels.

He then played two seasons for the United States Football League franchise that began as the Chicago Blitz and then became the Arizona Wranglers. His USFL coach was George Allen, who had previously earned acclaim as coach of the Washington Redskins. Long said Allen was an outstanding coach and he was saddened when he learned of Allen’s death.

Classmates of Kevin Long who were drafted and went on to successful NFL careers included Williams by the San Diego Chargers, offensive lineman Steve Courson by the Pittsburgh Steelers and defensive back Bill Currier by the Houston Oilers.

Kevin Long was inducted into the University of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002 and into the State of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.