In the last three seasons, Chris Long won two Super Bowls and was named the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year.
Not a bad way to finish an outstanding career.
Long announced his retirement from the NFL after 11 seasons Saturday night in a post on Twitter.
"When you look at everything Chris Long accomplished as a player and person, it's easy to see how fortunate we've been to have him on our team," the Philadelphia Eagles said in a statement. "Chris was everything that we thought he was and even more – not only as a great player for our football team, but also in the community. There aren’t many players who can say they won back-to-back Super Bowls and the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
"He accomplished both with class and grace. There's no question that his work ethic combined with his unique talent made him into one of the greatest of this era’s professional athletes. We're very thankful Chris chose to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, and congratulate him on a fantastic career. He will always be part of the Eagles family."
An outstanding defensive end, Long accumulated 70 sacks, 187 quarterback pressures and hits, 86 tackles for loss, 458 total tackles, and 15 forced fumbles in 162 career regular-season games (103 starts).
But the numbers don't begin to tell the entire story of the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft out of Virginia.
The son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long spent the first eight seasons of his career toiling for a struggling franchise in St. Louis. Over a four-year span from 2010-13, Long was one of the elite edge rushers in the NFL with 41.5 sacks. He played in every game until his seventh year in the league. But Long never suited up for a playoff game in eight seasons with the Rams.
He signed with the Patriots in 2016 and was a key contributor starting seven games and playing 65 percent of the snaps on defense. More importantly, Long tasted the postseason for the first time and seized the opportunity by winning a Super Bowl.
This past week at the Rookie Dinner held in the locker room at Lincoln Financial Field, team president Don Smolenski told the first-year players in attendance that when it comes to playing in Philadelphia, "If you show you care as much as they do, they will love you forever."
Smolenski might as well have shown the audience a picture of Long.
After lingering on the free agent market following the Super Bowl-winning season, Long joined the Eagles on March 30, 2017. The veteran presence and locker room leadership was significant, but Long still wanted to prove that he could provide some juice on the field.
Even though he only started in the regular-season finale in his first year with the Eagles, Long seemed to be around the ball when his teammates needed him the most. He was tied for second in the league with four strip-sacks and was second on the team with 38 quarterback pressures. He also saved his best football for down the stretch. His fourth-quarter strip-sack of Rams quarterback Jared Goff in Los Angeles was recovered by the Eagles and led to the game-winning points. That victory secured the NFC East title for the Eagles. Two weeks later, on Christmas night, Long posted a strip-sack and eight quarterback pressures against Oakland's Derek Carr to help gift home-field advantage of Eagles fans.
And in the NFC Championship Game, Long turned the game around with a hit on quarterback Case Keenum that led to an errant pass that was intercepted by cornerback Patrick Robinson and returned for a touchdown. The rout was on as the Eagles won 38-7 to head to the Super Bowl for a date with the Patriots, Long's former team.
Winning a second consecutive Super Bowl crown – as well as helping the Eagles capture their first ever Lombardi Trophy – after eight seasons of missing out on the postseason was special, but Long did something that year that no NFL player had ever done.
He donated his 2017 salary to charity.
Inspired by tragic events in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, Long sought to turn a negative situation into something positive by encouraging others to help fund scholarships with his first six game checks. The final 10 game checks went to support programs that promote educational equity in the cities in which he has played: St. Louis, Boston, and Philadelphia. This groundbreaking donation was not in isolation, as Long used the Pledge 10 for Tomorrow campaign to encourage fans to join him in fundraising and through that outreach the program raised a total of $1.75 million.
In 2018, Long continued more than a decade of community service by creating the First Quarter for Literacy program, which provides underserved Philadelphia families, and families nationwide, with free books, literacy resources, and mentoring services.
On the field this past season, Long was third on the defense in sacks with 6.5 and fourth in combined QB pressures and hits. He was once again pivotal down the stretch as the Eagles marched toward the playoffs. He had two sacks, including a fourth-quarter strip-sack, of Houston's Deshaun Watson in the critical Week 16 win. He also assumed more of a leadership role as he started to break down the post-game huddle in the locker room.
Following the season at the NFL Honors ceremony, Long became just the third player in franchise history to be named the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year for both his outstanding community service and his excellence on the field.
In 2015, after being named the St. Louis Rams' Walter Payton Man of the Year, Long established the Chris Long Foundation. The mission of the Chris Long Foundation is to impact communities locally and around the globe through programming focused around three main philanthropic causes: clean water, military appreciation, and youth education.
Long launched Waterboys in 2015, his cornerstone initiative that unites professional athletes and sports fans to raise funds and awareness to provide clean drinking water to East African communities in need. The original goal of Waterboys was to build 32 clean water wells – one for each NFL team. That goal was surpassed in February 2018, leading Long to set a new goal of providing clean water to one million people worldwide. To raise awareness for Waterboys, Long treks up Mt. Kilimanjaro alongside NFL players and wounded veterans. His trip in 2017 was documented by NFL Films. He climbed this past March again and on the summit Haloti Ngata called it a career.
Two months later, it's Long's turn to take a bow. A brilliant career spanning three cities in 11 years. But with his charitable contributions, Long taught a master class in how to leverage one's platform to better the lives of others.
Chris Long retires a champion. A true champion, indeed.