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Full marks to the MMQB, for making this Dr. Z Week. Those of us that grew up with and grew old reading Paul Zimmerman, the unparalleled football writer at Sports Illustrated and SI.com, knew what was lost when a series of strokes in late 2008 left the man silenced. Younger readers might appreciate the introduction. Direct, opinionated, a man of great passions. My kind of man.

This long form piece is one I think I must have missed in the magazine, covering one of my Raider heroes, Howie Long. It’s an incredible portrait, and one I’ve urged my son to read. I think a lot of our children have no idea how much of life is down to chance, in terms of the circumstance one is given, but how much more is down to effort – what one makes of the circumstance. I love this story. Well done, Z.

He sits in his grandmother’s kitchen in Charlestown, his great frame crowding the room, his face alight and open as he tells these stories. It’s the face of innocence, an Irish minstrel boy’s face transported to the body of a massive grown man. This magnificent body, combined with those clean, chiseled good looks, already has the Hollywood talent scouts buzzing. Now where is there a part for a 275-pound choirboy? He is 25 years old with two years of All-Pro behind him, a wife who has completed two years of law school and a healthy baby son named Christopher Howard Long. It’s all there ahead of him, a life of infinite promise, and yet almost every story he tells about himself, every anecdote, has an undercurrent of despair. It’s not me, he seems to be telling you, this isn’t really me that you see here in front of you.

Source: Dr. Z profiles Howie Long for 1985 Sports Illustrated | The MMQB with Peter King