New England Roots

NE Roots: Howie Long on the streets of Charlestown, loving Bobby Orr, and the ‘a-ha’ moment on way to HOF

(Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images)

The latest edition of our “New England Roots” series features former NFL defensive end Howie Long. It’s not hyperbole to suggest Long is the finest football player to ever come out of Massachusetts. The defensive lineman, who was born in Somerville, was raised in Charlestown before moving out to Milford. He went on to a Hall of Fame career, first at Villanova and them with the Raiders, where he played 13 seasons, finishing with 84 career sacks, two first-team All-Pro nods and a Super Bowl ring. Currently an analyst for Fox Sports, he’s the father of NFL players Chris Long and Kyle Long. He and his wife live on the West Coast.

BSJ: What was your youth sports experience like in New England when you were growing up?

Howie Long: I guarantee you that my youth sports experience was as unique a one you’ve had when you’re talking about something like this, because there really wasn’t any, at least organized. I grew up in Charlestown, but moved to Milford when the busing riots hit. In Charlestown, I remember playing up on Bunker Hill Monument. Eden Street Park, right around Albion Place. No parents, no coaches. Up until 13, it was in the streets. It was the best of times. I played football right under the elevated trains on Rutherford Avenue. Playing in the streets with my friends. It’s remarkable how well kids could figure it out on our own. We had great coaches and great structure when it came to some of the youth sports I was involved in, but most of my memories were playing in the street with my friends. For me, it was growing up wanting to be Bobby Orr, playing street hockey and basketball and baseball with a bat that had nails in it to hold it together. Basically, it wasn’t your traditional youth sports background. Baseball, kickball, stickball, football … you name it, we played it. And had a ball doing it — I think it was kind of foundation of sports for me.

When I got to Milford,