The landscape of professional football in America is as busy as ever. Leagues such as the USFL and the XFL are providing hundreds of opportunities to pro athletes to continue pursuing their dreams of getting to – or back to – the NFL. Kicker Ty Long is one of those prospects, who is hoping to return to the football field sooner than later.
Weekly video of how I’m hitting the ball. My Field Goals are feeling probably the best they’ve ever felt. Excited for the future! 5 from 45 yards & 1 from 50 pic.twitter.com/OuNjOyuKhQ
Throughout his accomplished career, Ty Long has consistently performed at a high level, amidst some difficult circumstances. To fully understand where he’s come from, and where he’s going, one must start at the beginning of his journey.
Football has always been a big part of Ty’s life. Like a lot of folks who grew up in the South, the sport is a staple of many communities, and Long’s was no different.
“I played football my whole life. I got into it because everyone else was doing it. My dad had me out here playing and kicking from a young age, so I’ve always had a love for the game. It’s the ultimate team game, and that’s something I’ve always enjoyed about it.”
Ty went into Roswell High School as a kicker, punter, and backup quarterback. He had quite a bit of experience at each position, but zoned in on kicking as the years went on.
“My coach came up to me and said that my future was in kicking and punting, so that’s what they had me focus on full time.”
Focusing on kicking is exactly what Ty did. He was regarded as one of the top senior kickers in the State of Georgia in 2011, and even hit a 53 yard game winner during the Class 6-AAAAA state playoffs.
Playing At UAB
Coming out of Roswell, Ty Long was one of the top kicking prospects on the market. He eventually landed at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where he saw a few successful years as a kicker.
“For whatever reason, I’ve always been the second guy that teams look at. I was the second kicker that UAB made an offer to, but I went in, competed for the job, and ultimately won it. I was very fortunate to have a lot of solid guys around me. Lots of good coaches too. I got to play for Neil Callaway, Daric Riley, who both coach at Birmingham now (USFL), and also Anthony Blevins. I was blessed to be around such a great group of coaches. All of those coaches trusted me, and let me do me. They knew I was the guy who was going to get things done, and put in the work every day.”
Ty Long played at UAB for four years, knocking through 76% of his field goal attempts, and 97% of his extra points. He also set a record for most field goals made at UAB.
First Professional Experience
From there, Long ended up signing with the Washington Redskins, sharing the room with Kai Forbath in 2015. While he performed at a high level, it wasn’t enough to win the job in Washington.
“When you’re a rookie, you just don’t understand the business side of the sport. It’s a whirlwind. There’s so much more to it. That’s something I struggled with, not understanding all of that. I had a really good showing in Washington, but I was competing with Kai Forbath who is obviously a solid kicker. Being able to compete with Kai, and do really well – I felt like I was right there with him all through OTA and training camp…it made me realize that I could actually do this.”
After his stint in Washington, Long ended up finding his way to Canada a year later. He signed with the BC Lions, but would have to face more competition before earning his role as a starter.
“Oddly enough, BC signed me and then the next week they signed Swayze Waters, who is a veteran and very talented. I got to compete with him, and ended up winning the job. Playing for the BC Lions in the CFL is what jump-started my career. That’s what really got me going.”
Up north, Ty Long was tremendous. In his first season in 2017, he was 39-44 (88%) on field goal attempts, with a long of 50 yards. Then, in 2018, he was a perfect 43-43, connecting from 52 yards out – and also knocked through 97% of his XP’s.
“I think the CFL is awesome – it provides a really good service, just like the USFL does. I learned how to be a professional up there. Getting to play for Wally Buono – he demanded perfection every single day. That really taught me how to be a pro, how to show up every single day, ready for work. Playing in the CFL helped prepare me for the NFL.”
In addition to his kicking in the CFL, Ty was also an outstanding punter for the B.C. Lions. His punting, in particular, caught the attention of the NFL.
Los Angeles Chargers
Ty finally had a breakthrough in 2019, when he signed with the Los Angeles Chargers. While he had multiple NFL teams showing interest in his kicking abilities, Long went to the Chargers primarily as a punter.
“It was a dream come true. It takes so much work to get into the NFL. When you’re not in the NFL, you don’t know how you’re going to get there. When you get to the NFL, you feel like you’re never going to leave. I think something that I’ve always had an appreciation for is how tough it is to make it to the NFL, and stay there. There’s so many talented guys out there, and there are so many things out of your control. To play three years in LA was an amazing accomplishment.”
In 2019, Long ended up seeing some time as a kicker for the team as well. He went 7-9 on field goal attempts, with a long of 51 yards. As a punter, Ty did quite well. Through those three seasons, he averaged 46.5 YPP, showcasing his strong leg with a long of 69.
"The dude who stepped up in the clutch is @Chargers punter/emergency kicker @trlong02. The 26-year-old rookie – formerly of the CFL's @BCLions – came into his first NFL start, nailed a FG, made 3 XPs, & had 2 perfect punts. The Bolts are 1-0; he's a huge reason why." – @PSchragspic.twitter.com/T0wkGkQKLg
Since his time came to an end with the Chargers, Long has had quite a few workouts with different NFL teams, but hasn’t had the opportunity yet to sign elsewhere.
“For me, the frustrating part is that over the last year and a half, I’ve had 9 workouts that I’ve performed very well at. I’m hitting the ball the best I’ve ever hit it. This has led me to being in talks with the New York Jets to be their practice squad guy, to do all three. Over the last year now I’ve been kicking field goals full time along with my punting training, and it’s made me realize how much I missed this (kicking). Getting back to kicking field goals full time on top of my punting has been a lot of fun, and just another challenge.”
A Reunion In Birmingham?
With opportunities abounding in the spring football scene, there’s a specific landing spot that might just be the perfect fit for Ty Long: Birmingham. The Birmingham Stallions have won back-to-back Championships in the USFL, and just watched their kicker – Brandon Aubrey – head to the NFL’s ranks.
• Holds UAB record for most FG’s • Punted for the Chargers (2019-21) • Ready to get back kicking field goals • Reports indicate that he has been kicking really well this off season. pic.twitter.com/ftHSfF1fhZ
Aubrey has been crushing it with the Dallas Cowboys. It’s unlikely that he would return to the USFL considering his NFL success so far. With an opening on the roster for a kicker – and a talented, available free agent who currently lives in the city, this pairing is almost too good to be true.
“Man, I would love to play for Birmingham. I’ve had some offers from some CFL teams and other things that just didn’t work out. But, I live here, just 15 minutes from downtown. I know so many guys on the staff. At the end of the day, I want to get back to kicking field goals, and this is a team that has an opening. I’ve worked with their long snapper (Ryan) who was a rookie with me in Los Angeles. I played with Colby in Denver too. My goal is to get back on the field, wherever that may be. Obviously, I’d love to play close to home.”
Of course, Ty Long is keeping his options open for whatever opportunities may come his way. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to see the former Birmingham star return to his roots, especially given his resume as a professional already.
“Whatever it takes, man, I’m working my butt off to get back to playing. I was very fortunate to have a lot of records at UAB. Did a lot of good things there. The UAB fans, and the Birmingham fans, have been very supportive. Very much in my corner, which I greatly appreciate. If you’re asking me if I’d like to play football, and not have to move, I’d love to do that.”
While the future is unknown, Ty Long knows exactly what he wants to do: kick field goals. He’s had a storied career of doing precisely that, and his journey is far from over.
“I miss the black and white of kicking field goals. I miss the make or miss. In punting, you can hit a great punt – but if coverage isn’t there, it’s a bad punt. So, having the experience of doing both, I know what both sides are like. For me, I miss having those game winning opportunities. I miss the pressure. Those moments have been defining in my career, and I’ve made a lot more than I’ve missed. I’m more motivated now than I have ever been in my life. I want to be the first player to have punted in the NFL, and then go back and kick field goals.”
In the world of professional football, nothing comes easy. For Long, he’s had plenty of ups and downs to navigate through across his career, which has shaped him into who he is today.
“I think that if you’d have to use one word to describe my career, it would be ‘journeyman’. There’s a lot of specialists out there like that. Sometimes I’ve felt like I’ve done everything right, but things haven’t worked out. Other times I’ve made mistakes, but things have panned out smoothly. Through all of this, I’ve learned that discipline outweighs motivation. So many times, I have been unmotivated, but it’s been my discipline which has kept me going. It’s that deep self-belief. Through football, I’ve learned that I have the intangible ability to figure things out. I think that’s what life is all about.”
With plenty of football left to be played for Ty, we are wishing him the absolute best moving forward in his career. Ideally, the hometown hero will get the opportunity to play for his city once again, with the Stallions.