Coach Hayden Fry will tell you that life has been good to him ever since he came to "Ah-wuh," which is a good piece north from his native Texas.
But never has it been so kind, Fry said again today while standing on the Rose Bowl's regal earth, as it was on that February day when quarterback Chuck Long told him he had decided not to opt for the National Football League and would return for a fifth year with the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Never one to act stoically, Fry recalled, "I got down on my knees and praised the Lord."
Here it is 10 months later and Long is the Heisman Trophy runner-up about to lead the No. 4 Hawkeyes (10-1) against No. 13 UCLA (8-2-1) in the Rose Bowl on Wednesday, which is precisely the reason Long says he stayed.
"I always wanted to be a senior quarterback in the Rose Bowl," Long said. "I guess everybody does."
The Iowa press releases have termed the Hawkeyes' season The Long Road to Glory. Along the road were six weeks with the No. 1 ranking in the polls.
Long is the guy who drove the getaway car. He is 6 feet 4, 213 pounds and he comes from Wheaton, Ill. Red Grange was from there, too.
When Bernie Kosar smooth-moved his way into Cleveland and the NFL after last season, rather than remaining at the University of Miami, Long took another approach. He stayed in college. Of course, this endeared him to Iowans. To the farmers, Long is as good as rain.
Furthermore, Long has dedicated much of his success to his 14-year-old brother Andy, who suffers from cerebral palsy. Long said Andy inspires him to work harder and that his kid brother never seems to notice the interceptions or incompletions, just the touchdowns.
Long, who was red-shirted his freshman season, said he didn't talk to many NFL scouts or coaches before reaching his decision to remain at Iowa and that therefore he didn't get a good fix as to where he might have been selected if he had made himself eligible for the NFL draft last year.
"A lot of agents kept telling me where I'd go," said Long. To hear his voice, you got the impression Long wanted to tell the agents where to go.
In the end, of course, Long chose to stay. "I felt if the money was there this year," he said recently, "it was going to be there next year."
Just in case, Long's father, Charles, had purchased an insurance policy with a $7,000 premium with Lloyd's of London before this season to protect his son's arm.
If you're wondering how Long finished second to Auburn's Bo Jackson in the closest balloting in the history of the Heisman Trophy (Jackson received 317 first-place votes and 1,509 points to Long's 286 and 1,464), then get a load of some of these numbers:
Long threw for 26 touchdowns (with 15 interceptions) and for nearly 3,000 yards (270 per game) this season. He finished with 10,142 passing yards in his career, sliding by Purdue's Mark Herrmann as the all-time leading passer in the Big Ten.
Long shredded Northwestern for six touchdowns this season, which would seem remarkable, unless you had seen him throw for six scores in a 55-17 victory over Texas in the 1984 Freedom Bowl. Long completed 22 consecutive passes against Indiana last season and that's an NCAA record.
He led the Hawkeyes to game-winning drives in the fourth quarter in 1985 against Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue. He became known for his uncanny ability to excel in the rain, although his only true failure this season came in the Hawkeyes' only failure, a 22-13 loss at Ohio State, when he completed only half of his 34 passes and threw four interceptions in a driving rainstorm.
Long's Heisman resume might have begun with a recitation of his numbers in a 35-31 victory over Michigan State this season: 30 for 39 for 380 yards and four touchdowns. He completed six of seven throws for 61 yards on the final drive. He put his signature on the drive with a game-winning two-yard run with 27 seconds left.
With his head on a swivel, Michigan State Coach George Perles said after that game, "I'll be glad to see Chuck Long drafted in the first round and I'll be happy to watch him on Sunday afternoons. He made at least six throws that I don't think anybody else could have made. They were NFL throws."
Forest Evashevski, the former Iowa coach, said after the Hawkeyes' Long-led 12-10 victory over Michigan: "I knew Long was a great quarterback, but I've changed my mind. He is a franchise."
That, perhaps, is a bit overstated. Talk to NFL scouts and they'll tell you that Long is likely to be drafted in the first round of the 1986 draft.
"His best assets are his size, his intelligence and his field awareness," said Charles Casserly, the Redskins' assistant general manager and a team scout. "He's been productive and he's been a winner."
Yet, some NFL scouts remain indifferent toward Long, rating Purdue's Jim Everett well ahead of him, and maybe Brigham Young's Robbie Bosco a good deal higher, too. These scouts question Long's lack of mobility and his somewhat awkward release, which at times is beyond three-quarters sidearm and is almost closer to underhanded.
"He'll make it in the NFL," a scout said of Long, "but not as a franchise-maker."
For certain, though, Long has made these Hawkeyes. Just as surely as the Hawkeyes wear ANF stickers on their helmets (it stands for America Needs Farmers), the look in Fry's eyes spells WNL: We Need Long.
"Chuck would admit that one of the wisest decisions he has made in his life," Fry said today, "is staying here a fifth year. He's become a more polished, accomplished quarterback. He's got an innate sense of leadership.
"(But) he's so low-key that I have encouraged him to take charge more. He's done that this year."
Terry Donahue, the UCLA coach, was asked today to compare Long to Bosco, who completed 29 of 41 for 340 yards and two scores in the Bruins 27-24 victory over BYU in the season opener. Bosco finished third in the Heisman voting.
Although Donahue said the two teams' offenses are very different and that that makes comparison of the two quarterbacks difficult, he did say, "Robbie Bosco is a very fine quarterback. (But) he has not enjoyed anywhere near the success this year that Chuck Long has enjoyed.
"Chuck Long's success this year is almost unparalleled among all the quarterbacks in the country."
Long has no regrets about not winning the Heisman. "I thought it was a great race (with Auburn's Jackson)," he said. "I'm just proud to be a part of the closest race in history."
Actually, this won't be Long's first appearance in a Rose Bowl game. He played one series when Iowa got splintered by the University of Washington, 28-0, in the Rose Bowl four years ago. That Iowa team had a linebacker named Andre Tippett and an offense that moved like a wagon without wheels. Simply put, it didn't move at all.
Long was just a freshman then and ran twice for 11 yards near game's end, so that game doesn't mean much to him.
"It was a disaster for us," he said. Still, while that game was lost, Long's faith was not.
Said Long: "Before this year, I always thought we had a Rose Bowl team."