THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – After declaring for the draft following his junior season at the University of Michigan, David Long Jr. took what is perhaps considered an unconventional approach this day and age leading into the 2019 NFL Draft.
While some prospects would be tempted to pay attention to mock drafts and other outside noise, the future Rams cornerback wanted no part of it. He said he didn't even text his agent about where he might get drafted.
It was all intentional so he could stay focused strictly on his workouts and nothing else as the weekend of April 25-27 approached.
"I feel like a lot of outside opinions influence kids to one, leave early, and then two, just in general, their perspective on what the process is going to be like," Long told theRams.com in an April 2 phone interview. "But I just left with a really open mind, kind of like going to college again, and I just told myself I'll put my best foot forward every day. That way, April 26, 27 rolls around, I'll leave no stone unturned."
When Long did solicit outside opinions, though, he did so with a clear purpose.
He had an open mind as he navigated the draft process, but he also didn't want to have unrealistic expectations for himself. In turn, he reached out to players who already made it to the NFL, including former Michigan teammates Maurice Hurst Jr., Jourdan Lewis, Delano Hill and Chris Wormley.
All told, he spoke with "countless guys" to get their perspective on what their rookie season was like and coming into the league. However, true to the disciplined mindset he applied from the day he declared, there was some information he intentionally did not seek.
"I really didn't ask them, should I come out? Because I feel like that's a really personal thing. I feel like if you're ready, you're ready," Long said. "And I also tried not to cloud my vision too much with outside opinions because so many people have been in this situation, whether they chose to leave early or stay in school, it was all personal preference. I felt like once I was ready, I was trying to ask guys to see, what should I get prepared for? I was a wealthy in a sense that I had a lot of guys that I played with at Michigan who were at the next level."
Expectations were managed until draft weekend, though it was for good reason.
Though the Pasadena native and Loyola High School grad said he would've been fine if it was just him and a couple of friends, his grandmother and other family members wanted people around to celebrate with him. It was mainly immediate family around him the first day of the draft, then "a good deal of people there" when he got drafted on day two.
"Me personally, I honestly didn't want anybody to be there. I just kind of wanted to do my immediate family," Long said. "Just in case, whatever situation happened, I was prepared for that, because I didn't really want anybody feeling sorry for me or anything, whatever the case may be. I just felt that was not the energy that I wanted, regardless of how anything happened. Whether I would've gone undrafted or later (in the draft), I didn't need anybody's sympathy."
Fortunately for Long, he didn't have to worry about that scenario. He got that long-awaited phone call from general manager Les Snead when the Rams went on the clock at No. 91 overall in the third round.
It was a full-circle moment for both Snead and Long, too.
When Snead first relocated to Los Angeles, his then-freshman son enrolled at Loyola when Long was a senior. Snead was at the school one day and struck up a conversation with Long's high school coach, Marvin Sanders, who then introduced Long to Snead on the spot.
"We just kind of sat in there and talked for a little bit," Long said, recalling the conversation with Snead. "I was just asking him questions. It was kind of crazy, I was asking him about safe draft picks and what do you build a team around, things like that."
Thanks to Long's pre-draft focus, the phone call from the Rams came as a pleasant surprise. He said he only spoke with them once during the pre-draft process and visited the team, but didn't hear from them after that.
"I didn't really have any expectations, but in your mind, when you realistically think where you would go, that was definitely not one of the top five teams that I thought were going to pick me up."
Given how well it worked out for Long, the way he approached the draft last year is the exact same advice he would give to prospects this year and in the future.
"I just tell guys, think about it like college, you know?" Long said. "When you are leaving high school, you've got all these decorated players and everybody's judging this and that, but the guys that are really focused on getting better and playing ball every day, those are the guys that meet expectations. You can't control where you're going to get drafted. I mean, you can't even control the situation we're in right now. Who knew at the combine that you wouldn't have a pro day? I always tell guys to just try to control the things that they can control. It reduces your stress level and just allows you to be a lot more productive. It reduces your stress level and just allows you to be a lot more productive."