The Long view: Brandeis gridiron great and original member of the Patriots anticipates a sixth ring for New England

Mike Long '60 remembers his Judges football team that went 6-1, and his brief stint as the first to wear #87 for the New England Patriots

Mike Long '60, member of the Judges football team that went 6-1 in 1957.

Mike Long '60, who had a brief stint with the Patriots, has been inducted twice to the Brandeis Athletics Hall of Fame, as an individual athlete and as a member of the 1957 football team

When the Patriots take on the Eagles this Sunday, one Brandeisian will be watching New England's quest for a sixth ring with a unique perspective - as a former Patriot.

Mike Long '60 is a two-time Brandeis Athletics Hall of Fame inductee. He earned membership as an individual in 1997 because of his status as an All-American end on the football team. He was enshrined again in 2013 as a member of the 1957 football squad that went 6-1 and was the best team in school history. He was a starter as a sophomore on a senior-laden squad that featured two other Brandeis legends and Hall of Famers - Morry Stein '58 at fullback and Charlie Napoli '58 on the line.

"It was a great team with a great coaching staff. [Coach] Benny Friedman was in his prime," Long remembered. "But all of my teammates were great players, and great guys. So many of them have gone on to do great things after Brandeis."

The Judges won most of their games handily that season, and even their lone defeat came with a caveat. "We could have beaten Rhode Island, but half of the team was down with the flu," Long said.

Though his junior and senior seasons were not as successful in terms of wins and losses as Long had hoped after that magical 1957 campaign, he still caught the attention of pro scouts, from both the NFL and the fledgling American Football League. Thanks to a connection between Long's position coach, E.A. "Foxy" Flumere, and Mike Holovak, the running back coach of the nascent Boston Patriots, Long decided to take a shot in the new league.

"Remember, there were only 12 NFL teams at the time," Long said. "Then the American Football League came along, and I thought there would be a better chance to make the roster."

The initial Patriots' training camp was held on the campus of UMass Amherst. Unsurprisingly for a team starting from scratch, there was a lot of interest. Long recalls counting the players and realizing there were enough to make up 11 different offensive units.

"I was surprised that the big-time players from big-time conferences that were there weren't better than they were," Long recalls. "Morrie Stein could have competed for a spot on that team. So could Charlie Napoli."

As the rosters were cut from the hundreds to more manageable numbers, Long hung around, making the team as a tight end. He wore #87, giving rise the story - as told in this Boston Globe article from a couple of years ago - that Long was "the first Gronk" - that's current All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Though Long played in only two games for the Patriots - making two catches for 10 yards - he has been interested in them ever since, but it wasn't always easy. Long and his wife lived in France for more than 20 years in the era before the internet made following your favorite team as simple as logging on to your computer. They owned a restaurant in the southwest of France, while he worked as currency expert based in Paris and London. After his wife passed away, Long returned to the U.S. in 2001, just in time to see the birth of the Patriots' dynasty that started with the 2002 Super Bowl.

"I felt from early on that Brady had a chance to be the greatest quarterback of all time," Long said. "And ever since Gronk came along, they've been incredible to watch."

While he said he's never met the current Patriots #87, Long said "in my opinion he is without doubt the greatest tight end that ever played the game."

As for this year's Super Bowl, Long likes the Pats to earn ring number six. "They need to keep a lid on Foles, who looked good last week," Long warned. "For Philly, if they can get the lead, they need to control the last five minutes. They have to be perfect, if they aren't, [coach Bill] Belichick and the Pats will make them pay."

Categories: Alumni, Athletics

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