Chris Long's stint in New England may have been just one season, but it was a memorable one. With his veteran presence in the locker room, he was quick to connect with his teammates and fans, and he was a part of the Patriots epic Super Bowl LI win against the Falcons. He is forever a member of that Patriots team.
This weekend, Chris retired from the game of football – a game he has played since he was a boy, a game played by his brother and his Hall of Fame father. And with a simple toast of a red cup, overlooking a sunset in the mountains, Chris's announcement is fitting way for him to go out.
Chris's 11-year NFL career is a storied one. He was a captain for the Rams, where he recorded 37 combined tackles and a career-high 13 sacks in 2011. He is a two-time Super Bowl champion, recording four sacks and 35 combined tackles in his year with the Patriots.
But his legacy goes beyond what he accomplished on the field.
Through the Chris Long Foundation, he has zeroed in on four causes: clean water, homelessness, military support and youth in need. In his one year with the Patriots, Chris hosted a holiday dinner for local military members.
In 2015, he established Waterboys to build wells and provide clean water to villages in East Africa. To date, 211,000 people have access to clean water because of Waterboys. While in New England, he continued this work with Waterboys, hosting fundraisers in Boston, and this year, his former teammate Rob Ninkovich joined the organization in its trip up Mount Kilimanjaro.
In 2017, Chris donated his game checks to different charities, including organizations to promote educational equality in all three of his NFL cities. Even after he left New England, Chris continued to pour back into the community. Ultimately, he gave about $2.5 million to different charities, including Summer Search in Boston.
He played for free and put his money where his mouth is.
Because of this work, Chris won the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
He is quick to stand up for what he believes in, often voicing his views on Twitter and in thoughtful statements, particularly when it comes to matters of racial inequality.
In his acceptance speech, Chris spoke about how he hopes one day, he will make his sons proud and an honor like the Walter Payton Man of the Year doesn't mark the end of his service to others.
"As nominees, this will elevate us all, but I see it as more of a challenge than an accomplishment to be who we say we are, not just on easy nights like this, but when nobody's watching," he said. "For all the evils in the world, I think apathy is one of the most dangerous. To the other 31 nominees, thank you for caring and doing what you do, even when it may not be your problem."
This level of passion and willingness to fight what's right has made Chris such a prominent voice in the NFL over his 11-year career. Two Super Bowl rings is nothing to scoff at, but when telling the story of Chris's NFL career, the lives he has touched will be an unforgettable part of the narrative.
Congratulations, Chris. Patriots Nation can't wait to see what's next.