By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – Steve Longa is in a football flux. After a strong training camp, he looked like he’d see the field as a true freshman. Now, four games into the season, Kyle Flood is looking to redshirt all but three of the highly touted freshman class.
However, Flood said Longa and fellow freshman linebacker Quanzell Lambert – who’s injury in training camp hampered his chances to contribute – are in “emergency roles.” So Longa practices with the varsity instead of a member of the scout team and is a part of the two deep. He travels on road trips and suits up, but sits on the sidelines knowing he’d only get on the field due to an injury.
“Basically it doesn’t matter [if I play or not] because I’m still going to take the same approach to every game,” Longa said. “…I’m still going to take the same approach, I’m still going to get into my playbook every night before the game…I’m still going to do the thing that I’m supposed to do.”
The thing he was supposed to do was play as a freshman. At least that was the case after opening up the coaching staff’s eyes during training camp.
No, he wasn’t going to unseat the reining Big East Defensive Player of the Year Khaseem Greene at weak side linebacker. But he’d play on special teams, and maybe get a rep at linebacker here or there. That’s not the case anymore.
“It’s not disappointing,” the Saddlebrook, NJ native said. “It’s a learning process. Everything that happens for a reason and I’m here to learn and when I get my opportunity I’m going to do the best that I can.”
So for now, he’s merely Greene’s understudy. Not a bad guy to get your tutelage from. The future NFL draft pick is one of the brighter minds on the field.
“It’s great,” Longa said of Greene’s mentoring. “We talk a lot. We talk about football; we talk a lot about other stuff — about life. He’s a great leader; he’s a great person too. When we travel at the hotel he’s my roommate and I think he’s a great guy. I can’t ask for anything better than that for a role model and sit under and back up.”
A back up that needs to keep his head in the game every Saturday. After all, the 6-foot-1 220 pounder is just a play away from seeing his first collegiate game action.
“I everything I have to do just like the starters to get ready,” Longa said, adding, ”you never know when you’re going to be needed. I never know when I’m going to be needed, so I just have to prepare myself so the game doesn’t take me by surprise.”