Destined for Greatness: The Story of Chuck Long
“I have been around great, great people all my life. I’ve associated with great players and great coaches. I’ve taught history and I know a little about the qualities of great people in history. It was just so evident to me that Chuck Long had all the qualities you find in great people. I could just see it.”
—Iowa Coach Hayden Fry on his first impressions of Wheaton North’s Chuck Long
The year is 1981. The Iowa Hawkeyes are struggling mightily to gain respectability on the football field after decades as a Big Ten Conference doormat. Hayden Fry, a larger-than-life character and river boat gambler with Texas roots, had arrived in Iowa City in 1979. Now, in his all-important third year as head coach, it’s make-or-break time for a man doggedly determined to transform a beleaguered program into a national powerhouse. While the team has many needs, one of the most important is a strong leader at quarterback. Unexpectedly, Hayden and his staff sign a blonde-haired, six-foot-four quarterback named Chuck Long. Safe to say the son of Wheaton residents Charlie and Joan Long was as much a mystery to Iowa fans as winning. Chuck averaged just a handful of throws per start as a high school signal caller for the Wheaton North team coached by Jim Rexilius. Even in North’s 14–6 victory over LaSalle-Peru in the 1979 4A Illinois state football championship game, Chuck completed just one of four passes for minus-three yards. Now, Coach Hayden Fry takes to the microphones as the 1982 campaign approaches and, in front of a gaggle of reporters, proclaims sophomore-to-be, Chuck Long, as “destined for greatness.” In a twist of fate not even Hollywood could script, Chuck and the Iowa Hawkeyes set sail on a voyage that would ultimately take them (and the state of Iowa) into the national spotlight. At the heart of it all was a once-obscure quarterback. Sound too good to be true? Not if you’re destined for greatness.
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