Following a performance as impressive as you’ll see in college football this season, Norfolk State linebacker Tyler Long has been named one of the Shrine Bowl HBCU Players of the Week. Can the younger brother of Tennessee Titans linebacker David Long join his sibling at the next level at the end of a successful college career?
Week 12 Defensive HBCU Players of the Week: Norfolk State LB Tyler Long
Norfolk State saved their best for last in their regular season finale, ending a four-game losing streak by defeating reigning MEAC champion South Carolina State 42-38 in college football Week 12. While Otto Kuhns’ five touchdown passes grabbed the headlines, linebacker Long’s career day helped seal the deal for the Spartans.
Long was named one of the Shrine Bowl HBCU Defensive Players of the Week after tallying 12 solo tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, and a forced fumble in the win that consigned SC State to a fourth straight loss. In addition to being named the Shrine Bowl HBCU Defensive Player of the Week, the Norfolk State linebacker earned conference honors as the MEAC Defensive Player of the Week.
With 106 tackles on the season, Long finished the season as the leading tackler in the MEAC. Meanwhile, he set career highs this season with seven tackles for loss and five sacks. His forced fumble against SC State was the first of the season, another sign of his ability to disrupt in all phases of the game. He added an interception from the season opener against FBS opponent Marshall.
“Tyler Long is one of the most underrated defenders in HBCU football,” Draft HBCU scout and defensive line coach Gerald J. Huggins Jr. told Pro Football Network. The Shrine Bowl has partnered with Draft HBCU to identify and elevate talent from Historically Black Colleges and Universities with a range of initiatives that include the Shrine Bowl HBCU Players of the Week.
“Long has been a tackling machine all year for Norfolk State University. On a down year for the Spartans, Long has been their best defender. Long’s best attribute is his play against the run. He diagnoses plays rather quickly and does an excellent job fitting his gaps. He also possesses the speed to play sideline to sideline.”
“He’s a stoutly built 5’11”, 225 pounds, but he makes up for it with aggression and violence,” continues Huggins in his evaluation of the Norfolk State linebacker. “He’s violent when taking on blockers and tackling. He has a nose for making plays in the backfield and is one of the better tacklers I’ve watched in HBCU football at the linebacker spot.”
Long has built a reputation as a tackling machine during a football journey from Cincinnati that has taken him from an all-conference linebacker at Hughes STEM through the JUCO level to 700 Park Avenue, Norfolk. He posted over 100 tackles in his final two seasons at Hughes, adding 28 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
Undersized and under-recruited, Long found himself at Lackawanna Junior College in Scranton, PA, for the 2019 season. While tallying 53 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and six sacks, he earned second-team All-Northeast Conference honors. The forceful linebacker also logged 16 tackles in the NJCAA National Championship Game against Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Although he missed his first season with Norfolk State as the Spartans didn’t play in 2020, Long made an immediate impression when he finally hit the field. Making 11 starts in 2021, he led the team with 78 tackles, paving the way for a senior season where he’s one of the best linebackers in all of HBCU football.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that Long is purely a downhill tackler with a one-dimensional game. According to Huggins, he offers value in multiple phases of defense.
“He is a more undersized linebacker who can play Mike, Sam, or Will in a 4-3 system. I can also see him playing as TED in a 3-4 scheme. He’s also done well playing in nickel packages throughout his college career. He does a solid job of dropping into his zone and being impactful against the pass.”
That level of versatility, combined with his sheer production and prowess as a tackling machine, could earn Long some next-level attention. Even if he doesn’t join his brother in the NFL, Huggins points to the CFL, XFL, and USFL as potential landing spots.
Either way, the Norfolk State linebacker has proven that he belongs as one of the Shrine Bowl HBCU Players of the Week.