New Hampshire Football Report

End of the line

There was a pause when Exeter High School graduate Hunter Long was asked what his first purchase was going to be after he signed his first NFL contract.

After mulling over the question, Long finally came up with this:

“I’ve gotten that question a couple times, and honestly I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve thought about it a little bit. Ummmm. Probably something for my family. They’ve been great through this whole process. I want to do something nice for them. Maybe a trip or something.”

That first contract should be signed soon, as Long is projected to be one of the first tight ends selected in this year’s NFL Draft, which begins Thursday.

Long graduated from Boston College in December and left his final season of eligibility on the table to declare for the draft. One draft guide lists him as the No. 4 tight end available, behind Kyle Pitts (Florida), Pat Freiermuth (Penn State) and Brevin Jordan (Miam-Fla.). Some have predicted he’ll be selected as early as the third round.

“I feel like I’m in a good spot and I was able to do everything I needed to do,” Long said. “It’s out of my hands now. It’s in the hands of the teams.”

Long, 22, was measured at 6-foot-5, and weighed 254 pounds during BC’s Pro Day. In the age of COVID, it was the first time NFL personnel types could see Long — and other BC players with pro potential — in person. Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores was among those who attended the event.

“I thought Pro Day went really well for me,” said Long, who spent a year at Deerfield Academy before enrolling at BC. “It was a pretty important day for me in my draft process. My two big goals going in were to show my speed in the 40 and to do well in the field drills. I feel like I was able to accomplish both of those.

“After Pro Day it’s been a bunch of Zoom calls. I’ve pretty much met with every (NFL) team multiple times now.”

Long’s Pro Day results:

Bench press: Did not participate
Vertical jump: 32.5 inches
Broad jump: 10 feet, 2 inches
40-yard dash: 4.63 and 4.69 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.42
Three-cone drill: 7.41

“I think versatility is the key (with Long), and that’s something people kept asking me during (the Pro Day),” said BC coach Jeff Hafley, who worked as an assistant coach with four NFL teams before landing the BC job shortly after the 2019 season ended. “I think that’s very hard to find in the NFL. You get a guy who can run routes … a huge threat in the red zone. To me he’s a problem in the red zone. But then you also get a guy on first and second down who can line up as an inline tight end. You can move him around. You can put him in the backfield. You can split him out to create mismatches. 

“He’s a brilliant, brilliant kid,” Hafley continued. “There’s not many people who will be able to pick up a scheme and a playbook as fast as he will. I think he’s going to be one of the safest picks in the draft, because I think he’ll play for a long, long time. He’ll be a pro. He’ll do everything right and he’s going to have a lot of production.”

Long agreed that versatility is his No. 1 strength. He said he benefited from playing in two very different offenses while in college. Former BC head coach Steve Addazio liked to emphasize the run game, and the Eagles attacked through the air more under Hafley.

Long plans to watch the draft from his home in Exeter. What will he bring to the team that selects him?

“Kind of what I was able to do my past two playing seasons at BC is be a three-down tight end,” Long said. “Be an asset in both the pass game and the run game. When I’m on the field you don’t know if we’re going to run the ball down your throat or throw the ball over your head, and that’s what teams look for in tight ends nowadays. You don’t want a tight end where if you put him on the field you know you’re passing the ball, or if you put him on the field you know you’re running the ball. I feel that’s one of my biggest skill-sets, one of the things I take pride in, is being an all-around tight end and excelling in all aspects of the position. And then I’ve shown the whole way how much of a team guy I am, and how bought into the team I am. I played special teams all three years at BC. I think whatever team picks me I’m gonna be able to help them win in more ways than one.”

Long caught 89 passes for 1,297 yards and nine touchdowns in 36 games with the Eagles. He averaged 14.6 yards per reception during his three-year career.

Long offered the following advice to athletes from New Hampshire looking to make a mark at the next level:

“I think my biggest piece of advice is always believe in yourself,” he said. “It doesn’t take some outside person to tell you you can do something to be able to do it. … I never didn’t believe in myself, which I think is the biggest factor in how I got to this point. I’ve had a million people along the way bad-mouth my game or say I wasn’t good enough to get here, and if you spend too much time listening to that stuff it’ll come true — you’ll never get to where you want to g0. Any kid playing in New Hampshire can make it just like I did. Being from New Hampshire makes it that much harder, but it’s definitely not impossible.”

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