By Dr. Ken 

In an era that now seems so long ago, the time-honored way to discipline and perhaps “straighten out” a college football player who fought too much, may have been too casual about class attendance, or was otherwise a “behavior problem but a good kid” was to convince them to join the military for what used to be the available one or two year stints, and then return to school. In most cases, for those who did return to the college campus and football program, the military service had the desired effect . The older, more experienced, worldly, and disciplined individual was usually able to contribute to the football team and campus community in a positive manner. For others like Terry Long, voluntary military service provided the time and opportunity to become, as the slogan goes, “all he could be” and rise to the level of an effective National Football League player and starter.



At Euclaine High School in Columbia, South Carolina, a young Terry Long was going nowhere fast on the football field. Entering his senior season the 5’11”, 160 pound Long had few physical attributes to lend to the squad and no on-field experience, so instead returned to a variety of after school jobs to help support his widowed mother and six other siblings halfway through the season. This truncated season of varsity football was the high-water mark of the athletic career of Long when he left high school. He joined the United States Army as so many other high school graduates do, was assigned to the 82nd Airborne and spent two years in the Special Forces. Three months into his new life he found the weight room and dedicated any leisure time to this new obsession. Despite logging more than sixty jumps and running four to five miles daily, Long grew a lot of muscle. Akin to something out of the Charles Atlas ads, the relatively thin and definitely under-muscled Long responded spectacularly to the physical demands of Army life and his new weight training pursuit. By the conclusion of his hitch, he was no taller but he had put on almost one hundred pounds of what appeared to be solid muscle, played noseguard on the Fort Bragg football team that competed in an intra-service league, and most impressively, could now squat with 500 pounds, bench press 405, and deadlift 400. His forty-yard sprint time was clocked at 4.8 seconds, he could perform a standing flip at any time, and dunk a basketball from a standing start. He had survived the rigorous “torture training” where because of his size, Terry was usually the “prisoner” who was punched and kicked when captured by mock enemy forces during base maneuvers and he thrived on it. In short, Terry Long had transformed himself from Clark Kent to Superman!



Now eager to play more football and pursue an advanced education, Long contacted a number of university football programs and received scholarship offers from Nebraska and Wyoming among others, but preferred to remain close to home and family, choosing to attend East Carolina University. While the coaching staff, like everyone else was impressed with Long’s physical development, he had little in the way of football technique and knowledge and later admitted that he had “spent the first two years at ECU learning how to play football.” He did however, work hard and he learned. Under the guidance of legendary Strength And Conditioning Coach Dr. Mike Gentry who later established himself as one of the best in the profession during his twenty-nine seasons at Virginia Tech, Long also succeeded in becoming perhaps the strongest college football player of all time. Listed at 279 going into his junior season of 1982, he had improved by leaps and bounds, touted as a potential All American on a very talented squad that included running back Earnest Byner. ECU’s 1983 team was often referred to locally as “The Unknowns” as few out of the area or school alumni knew that twelve players from that squad would be drafted into the NFL and two others would ply their wares in the Canadian Football League.




Knowing that they had an unusual physical specimen in their midst, the Pirates public relations department went full blast to garner recognition for the team and specifically for Terry Long. Posters peppered the Carolinas, featuring Long in swim trunks and a muscular pose with the admonition to “Come See the Strongest Man In College Football When He Comes To Your Town,” harking back to the circus and carnival posters of old. Strength Coach Gentry, himself a successful powerlifting competitor, convinced Terry to enter the North Carolina State Powerlifting Championships where under official competition conditions, Long proved himself the equal of the top lifters in the world. His twenty-one inch neck and twenty-two inch arms helped him elevate 837 pounds in the squat, 501 in the bench press, and 865 in the deadlift, only thirty-nine pounds less than the existing world record! With a 441 hang clean and training lifts of 900 squat, 565 bench press, and 865 pound deadlift and the addition of a thirty-four-inch vertical jump at a body weight close to 300 pounds, there was no doubt that this physical education major was up to the rigors of pro football. That he became East Carolina’s initial AP Consensus First Team All American proved that he also had mastered the physical skills necessary to rise to the next level of the sport. Pro Scouts had told him had he been three or four inches taller, he would have been a first round draft choice but instead was taken as the Steelers second pick in the fourth round of the 1984 draft. By ’85 he was a starting guard, well liked for his easy going personality, and donated a scholarship to East Carolina University. Long had overcome a background fraught with problems and obstacles to become a professional football player, proving that there was still a place for unrelenting hard work and perseverance in one’s quest to fulfill a dream.




Although the medical information was already beginning to come in about the deleterious effects of anabolic steroids, there is no doubt that the early to mid-1980s was the zenith of their use by professional football players. It took the sporting world’s reaction to Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson’s breathtaking performances at the 1987 World Championships and 1988 Olympic Games and subsequent disqualification for steroid use to bring the matter to the forefront of public attention but there were signs years before that this was coming. Another Canadian sprint athlete, Mike Dwyer “expressed concern that the use of drugs had reached ‘epidemic proportions’ among Canadian sprinters” in 1986. Obviously, it is impossible to procure or know accurate figures but those who worked closely with NFL, CFL, and USFL players have placed rather high estimates on steroid use among offensive and defensive linemen. Many either during that time period and especially prior to the NFL’s ban on and testing for these performance enhancing drugs in 1987 admitted that they used them and often lamented that “I have to, if everyone else is on something. I have to be able to compete.”


The birth of the United States Football League no doubt led to a larger than expected proportional increase in anabolic drug use, unexpected at least, to the typical fan who lacks the insight to a football player’s emotional drive. Those who worked in the drug testing field were perhaps surprised at first to find that the largest numbers of drug use failures were recorded for the smaller, or lower level collegiate programs when the NCAA began testing for drugs. Needless to state, the players recruited to Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, Alabama, Pittsburgh, USC, and the other major powers were the best or certainly among the best in the nation. Their ability, existing size and strength, and football instincts allowed them this advantage and thus, they most often did not seek out the edge offered by anabolic steroids. Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz summed it up well by stating that he never used enhancement drugs because he just didn’t need them and “felt sorry for those who believed they did.” The Division II player who was an inch or so too short, a step or so too slow, or otherwise not quite up to the recruitment standards of the Big Ten, SEC, or SWC were more likely to seek out “something to make up for their lack of whatever it was” in order to realize their dream of All American status or a pro football contract. Despite the presence of many exceptional players in the USFL, the majority met the criteria for those “just lacking in NFL qualities” and in the professional game, estimates were made that drug use was higher there than in the NFL itself. In either case, it was not unusual relative to the behavior of a large percentage of professional football linemen of the early 1980s to indulge in anabolic or other performance enhancement drug use. Speculation is just that, “speculative,” but in Terry Long’s case, it is fact that he failed an NFL drug test indicating the use of banned anabolic steroids at the start of the Steelers training camp on July 11, 1991. When notified of the results, Long attempted suicide and was admitted to the psychiatric ward of Allegheny General Hospital, either by “taking some sleeping pills” or by the more publicized and reported ingestion of rat poison. The truth was worse; Long had locked himself in his garage with the car engine running and only the quick response of his current girlfriend who dragged him away from the carbon monoxide saved him. The next day he ate rat poison and was hospitalized.


In what became legendary head coach Chuck Noll’s final season, Long did in fact lose his starting guard position to Carlton Haselrig, starting but three of the eight games he played in until the NFL announced his four game suspension on November 15th. Thus ended the eight year professional football career of Terry Long; shamed by the public revelation of his anabolic drug use, an unsuccessful suicide attempt, and reports by his teammates of unusual behavior.





Even before the announcement of his positive steroid test, teammates noted a change in Terry Long’s behavior. His sudden mood swings and bouts of depression were a contrast to the gracious “T-Bone” so well liked by everyone. Already divorced, he shed himself of the girlfriend who had saved him from his first suicide attempt, remarried, and vacillated between loving husband and enraged adversary. He gave a great deal of money away to those who asked and had a succession of failed businesses, in part because he could not maintain his focus on any one project for a sustained period of time, in part because he would not leave his home for days at a time. His former teammates had, in his final season, often referred to Terry as “Sybil” because of the many personalities he flashed in the locker room. Some in-the-know attributed his change in behavior to steroid use, others were bewildered but there was no doubt that Terry Long was no longer the Terry Long whom Noll himself was so fond of. After retirement, life rapidly spun out of control. By March 23, 2005, an indictment had been issued, charging Long with a litany of fraud related crimes and most seriously, the arson that had destroyed his Pittsburgh based Value Added Foods chicken processing plant on September 23, 2003. These very significant charges that carried a maximum of fifty-five years in prison and $2,000,000.00 in fines augmented an outstanding Missouri warrant for passing bad checks in the Kansas City area.

Pathologist Bennet Omalu and neurosurgeon Julian Bails examined two Steelers brains, Long and Mike Webster, that began what can be called “The CTE Movement”

Long “appeared disheveled during his (court) appearance” and could claim only the $300.00 in his pocket and a checking account holding $750.00. His home was in foreclosure and he was again facing divorce proceedings. Once more he attempted suicide, drinking a can of Drano, survived the ordeal and revisited the psychiatric ward. On June 7, 2005, his attempts to take his own life were finally successful, succumbing to the organ and brain damage inflicted by drinking a can of anti-freeze. As a suicide, the autopsy was left to the Office of the Medical Examiner and Long, like his teammate Mike Webster, became the foundation for the early studies into what became christened, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE. Chronicled in books and on film, the war of words, financing, ultimate responsibility, and associated lawsuits, the many battles of CTE had former East Carolina University great and Pittsburgh Steelers starting right guard Terry Long firmly planted on the ground floor. To this day, no one can state with certainty what belied or what propelled the demise of Terry Long, yet, “what was good” in his dedication to literally will his way onto the gridiron through his focused hard work should be remembered long after “what was bad” and “what was ugly.”