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For David Long, a decision on NFL future can wait — but a win cannot

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Will the Camping World Bowl mark junior linebacker David Long’s swan song at West Virginia?

According to Long, not even he can answer that question at the moment.

“You’ll hear after the bowl game,” Long said.

Long’s long-term future is a promising one.

At 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds, he is not the prototypical size for an NFL linebacker. But guys who can play still find their way on the field – 5-foot-10 London Fletcher spent 16 NFL seasons at linebacker proving that point. And as the Big 12 defensive player of the year and a second team AP all-American, it’s clear that many people think Long can play.

But he’s more invested in his short-term future right now.

“I’ve thought about it by myself. I feel I’ll talk about it after the bowl game. What I’ve been focused on is the bowl game,” Long said. “Family, coaches, me, we’ll all [discuss it]. Talk to me after the win, hopefully.”

Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson confirmed that he and Long haven’t discussed the NFL just yet.

“That will come afterwards,” Gibson said. “Right now, we’re focused on trying to win a game.”

For Long, the Camping World Bowl means a lot. On the field, he is 0-2 in bowl games – a distinction he does not much care for.

“I’ve never won a bowl game since I’ve been here. Redshirt year we won against Arizona State. But other than that, I haven’t been part of a winning bowl game,” Long said. “That’s what I’ve been focusing on this week. I’m a sore loser. Bowl games, we have a lot of wins as a program, and another win would make it that much sweeter.”

West Virginia’s back-to-back losses to close out the regular season add to Long’s sore-loser streak and his desperation to beat Syracuse.

“It’s a big deal,” Long said. “Especially how we ended the regular season. We better have that mindset to go out there and end with a good note. That’s been a message out here.”

If the Mountaineers do end on a good note, one wonders what Long has left to prove. He’s got the accolades. He’s been in the program for four years. Logically, the next level seems like the next step.

But he doesn’t see it as an open-and-shut case.

“I think I can always get better as a player. I can always be a better leader,” Long said. “We’ve signed some good players coming in. It’s always good to add to the team. So I feel like we can improve on a lot of things.”

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