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 
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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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