Athletics name training facility after Long

Former UNA head athletic trainer Johnny O. Long delivers his speech during a ceremony April 22 honoring his service at UNA. The athletic department named the training facility after him. Long spent 1971-1988 as the head athletic trainer for the Lions.

By Staff Writer Mike Ezekiel

The UNA athletic training facility was named in honor of UNA Athletic Hall of Famer Johnny O. Long April 22.

Long, the former head athletic trainer at UNA from 1971-1988 and member of the Alabama Athletic Training Association, is a longtime member of UNA’s faculty and professor in the Health and Physical Education department.

“It’s unbelievable,” Long said. “I would have never dreamed about this happening. When you walk out and see Coach (Bill) Jones on the wall, Coach (Eddie) Flowers, Coach (Mike) Lane and Coach (Hal) Self, that’s pretty awesome. I don’t compare to those guys, but having my name on here is unbelievable.”

Long celebrated among friends and family Wednesday in front of the newly renovated athletic training facility in the Self Field House.

Long also told a few of his “classic stories” during the speech.

The name on the wall outside of the training room, accompanied by two plaques in Long’s honor, was unveiled after the ceremony.

Long said the most rewarding experience for him is knowing that he has made a difference in helping get players healthy.

“That’s what you work for, to see the athletes get back on the field,” Long said. “I know this past year when (quarterback) Luke Wingo injured his shoulder, and we showed him some exercises and stretching to do and it made a difference. He told me after the game that he probably could not have played without doing those stretches. Things like that make it all worthwhile.”

The speakers at the ceremony included Athletic Director Mark Linder, President Ken Kitts, head athletic trainer Josh Penny and football head coach Bobby Wallace.

Wallace introduced Long to the podium and gave a 25-minute speech thanking everyone for help and support.

“I’ve developed a tremendous friendship with him,” Wallace said. “What people don’t realize about Johnny is the compassion he has and how much what he does means to him.”

Wallace also said when he first came to UNA as a coach in 1988, Long would play racquetball with him and afterward, they would talk philosophy. Wallace said those moments helped him gain knowledge as a young coach.

“He goes out of his way to help somebody,” Wallace said. “I’ve learned so much from Johnny, and he’s had an influence on me. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Linder, who became UNA’s athletic director in 2007, said he has seen the numerous lives Long has touched.

“Johnny has been a staple of UNA athletics for a while,” Linder said. “His career and the number of lives he has touched is impressive. I think the dedication of the medical training room in honor of him is well-deserved.”

Linder said he believes Long’s personality and work ethic helped Long keep his job for so many years.

“Johnny is a hard worker and can bring a smile to anyone’s face,” he said. “I think he has a tremendous ability to create long-lasting relationships with our doctors and our coaching staff. His interest in our student athlete welfares has made him very special to us.”

Penny, who became UNA’s head athletic trainer in 2003 said Long has become his mentor and good friend since he has known him.

“Johnny is Mr. UNA,” Penny said. “He’s been here for so long and has done so much to start this athletic training program in 1971. He brought me here back in 1999 and helped me start my career, so he means a lot to me.”

Penny said Long’s ability to be straightforward with people and still be liked has made him a one-of-a-kind person.

“Sometimes you need to hear what you don’t want to hear,” Penny said. “He will tell you what you don’t want to hear, and you’ll still love him. He doesn’t know an enemy.”

Penny said he sees Long as a mentor and appreciates his hard work.

“I have so much respect for what he has done and what he’s accomplished.”

Long started his career as a professor in the HPER department in 1989.