DES MOINES (AP) - It's been 20 years since Chuck Long played for Hayden Fry, and almost a decade since he coached under the Hawkeye legend.
But when Long was hired this month for his first head coaching job, one piece of advice Fry dispensed to his former All-American suddenly made more sense.
Fry's words dealt with patience. It's a trait Long has come to appreciate as Oklahoma's offensive coordinator, and a skill he'll need plenty of to resurrect San Diego State's moribund football program.
Long replaced Tom Craft, who was fired Dec. 5 after a 5-7 season.
"He told me, 'Look, you need to be an assistant coach for 10 years. You need to learn all different dynamics of being a head coach, so when you're a head coach, you can appreciate what the assistants go through,'" Long said. "After being through it for 10 years, he's right."
Fry uttered those words exactly 10 years ago, during Long's first season as an assistant coach. And now that Long has landed the job he's craved ever since his NFL playing days were ending, he'll need to lean heavily on what he's learned under the three head coaches he's worked for - Fry, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
The Aztecs failed to post a winning record under Craft, who posted a 19-29 record in four seasons. San Diego State hasn't had a winning season since 1998 and has appeared in two bowl games in the last 15 years.
Long brings an impressive resume with him to San Diego. After eight years as a backup with the Lions and Rams, Long joined the Hawkeyes' staff in 1995 and spent three years as the secondary coach and two more as quarterbacks coach. He joined Stoops in Oklahoma in 2000 and helped direct one of the most explosive offensive attacks in college in history.
Long became offensive coordinator in 2002, and the following season the Sooners averaged 45.2 points a game behind Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jason White. In 2004, Long was named a Broyles Award finalist, given to the nation's top assistant.
The time under Stoops helped make Long a hot name among potential head coaches. He credits the Sooners' coach with bringing a new attitude to Oklahoma football, which Long hopes to do at San Diego State.
"Confidence," said Long when asked what he learned under Stoops. "And the energy he brought to the field everyday. It was very contagious for us as a staff and for the players. It was a big reason we won games."
But for the success Long might achieve as a head coach, he'll always be remembered among Iowa faithful as the best quarterback in Hawkeye history. Long was a three-time All-Big Ten pick and the 1985 Heisman runner-up _ to Auburn's Bo Jackson _ in the closest vote in history.
Long guided Iowa to the Big Ten title and the 1986 Rose Bowl. Ferentz was the Hawkeyes' offensive line coach during Long's time at Iowa, and he said the traits that made Long a great college quarterback shaped his personality as a coach.
"The things I remember more about Chuck as a player were the leadership qualities he had. He was a very strong leader of our football team, and a very tough player," Ferentz said. "People on the outside may not appreciate it as much, but you see a guy who's having a hard time walking certain weeks, and then he'd go out and play. And that was a big part of the reason we were so successful during that period."
Long has agreed to stay on in a limited role for the Sooners through the Holiday Bowl. In the meantime Long is working to assemble a coaching staff, and once Oklahoma's season ends, Long will begin the arduous task of evaluating San Diego State's roster.
What Long has been able to pick so far has led him to believe the Aztecs have a solid foundation to build on. But he believes talent isn't the biggest thing San Diego State needs.
"It's about building a team concept," Long said. "When you're losing games a mindset sets in, and we have to change that mindset. The challenge for us as a staff is to teach them how to win."