Family matters … no matter the background

Kyle Long (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

Kyle Long and Mychal Rivera both have famous relatives, just in different forms of entertainment. Family can help shape NFL prospects, but from here they have to stand on their own.

How much do bloodlines mean for an NFL draft prospect's value?

The Mannings (Archie, Peyton and Eli), the Matthews (Clay Sr., Clay Jr., Clay III, Bruce, Casey and Kevin) and the Kalils (Ryan and Matt) have all shown that football genetics can certainly help build a better NFL player.

This year, it's Kyle Long, son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long and younger brother of St. Louis Rams defensive lineman Chris Long who is hoping to make the step to the NFL. The advice passed down in his household had some to do with the pigskin technicalities and more to do with the passion of playing.

"Come with the attitude you want to outwork everybody. You can't hold a guy down that's going to outwork the world," said Kyle Long, an offensive lineman from Oregon, said of family's advice. "There are dozens of guys that are more talented, bigger, stronger and faster than you, but if you come in with the intent of working harder, things usually work out for those guys.

"As with most households with three boys, things are very competitive. My mom is extremely competitive as well. She was a swimmer in high school. My dad played a little bit of sports. You're bound to compete. Whether it's racing up the stairs when you get home, you're going to compete, just like most of the guys here."

"Here" is at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where NFL prospects hope to further their dreams of football stardom. Long competed well in his workouts at the combine Saturday, running the third-fastest 40-yard dash among offensive linemen.

Mychal Rivera, a tight end from Tennessee, also has famous bloodlines. In this case, however, his family history is in music and entertainment.

His sister Naya plays Santana Lopez in the popular NBC musical series "Glee."

"Growing up, I used to go on a bunch of auditions with my older sister and she would be rejected over and over and over again," Mychal said. "That taught me about life – you can't give up no matter what anybody says about you, no matter if you have a bad day or things like that. You've got to get up and you have to come back stronger next time."

Rivera is on his own audition, but in his case there isn't an endless supply of football leagues. It's the NFL or settling for the lesser leagues. This week at the scouting combine is one of the few opportunities he gets to display his talents in front of all the NFL teams.

Rivera said Naya may have considered giving up after numerous rejections, but she never show it. He's hoping he isn't rejected by the NFL when April's draft holds his dreams in the balance. His father George was in the music industry.

"He was a music consultant. He used to manage underground bands and he also used to work for Warner Brothers and Universal for 10 or 15 years," Mychal said.

And his mother Yolonda was also an actress, but Mychal said while being associated with the entertainment industry may help in dealing with the recognition that playing football can bring, there is no musical or acting career in his future.

"No. I was always sports, always sports. That's all me," he said.

"I love the game. I've loved it all my life and I've always wanted to be a pro."

Long, meanwhile, endured his struggles in coming to terms with growing up in a football family. He initially signed to play baseball with Florida State, possessing a 96 mph fastball that emerged from his left hand. At Florida State, however, he struggled with academics, spent time partying and ended up with a DUI in 2009.

"We all face our own personal challenges. I struggled with some stuff off the field I feel not a lot of people had to deal with," Long said. "I had to pick myself up and look myself in the mirror and decide I was going to change for the better. There was a lot of stuff I struggled with. I'm past that and I'm stronger because of it today."

Long rebuilt his education and career – this time in football – by attending Saddleback Junior College and then transferring to Oregon. He moved to the offensive line and, despite starting only 10 games at Oregon, has the natural skills and NFL bloodlines that will surely give him an opportunity in the NFL.

After more than 20 years of molding and shaping their personalities and character, Long and Rivera come from two very different backgrounds, experiences and cultures. Yet, no matter the lessons they learned from relatives, they are about to start their own careers. From here forward, it's on them.

"I've grown a lot as an individual. I was definitely immature. I was not independent. I feel I've grown up as a man the last few years," Long said. "I've taken responsibility for some of the things I've done. It was the worst thing and the best thing I've done. I've been through hardship and fought my way back. … I'm proud of the progress I've made and don't plan on stopping making progress anytime soon."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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