MURFREESBORO — Friendship Christian’s A.J. Long was the first to crack a smile onstage when Knoxville Webb’s Todd Kelly Jr. was named the Division II-A Mr. Football Back for the second straight year Monday during an awards ceremony at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center.
“It was fun to be here and be around the best players across the state and be able to say who is the best of the best,” Friendship’s quarterback said. “[Kelly] deserved it. He got his team back to the state finals. He’s done everything he needs to do to be a Mr. Football finalist.
“At the end of the day, he got one thing on his resume that I didn’t, and it was take his team to three straight championships.”
Long will soon graduate from FCS and enroll at Syracuse University right after New Year’s Day. He will join the Orange in time for spring practice.
But he leaves a two-year legacy at Friendship which includes a 21-2 record as a starting quarterback and the 2012 D-I Class A crown. It came on the heels of a stellar two-year run in his native Pennsylvania where he became a YouTube sensation.
“High school has been fun,” Long said. “It’s been a great experience but now it’s time to step up to another level.”
“He has achieved a lot,” Commander coach John McNeal said. “We’re happy with A.J. and him being a part of Friendship Christian for two years and we look forward to watching him on down the road at Syracuse.”
As a senior, Long completed 54 of 116 passes for 1,168 yards and 15 touchdowns while running 84 times for 466 yards and 12 more scores. He added defensive back to his workload as a senior and was in on 21 tackles and two interceptions returned for 113 yards despite missing three early-season games due to injury. He also recovered a fumble.
“We’ve had quarterbacks, Lee Sweeney who threw the ball as well as anybody in the state and we’ve had quarterbacks who could run that may not have thrown as well as others, but A.J. did bring a dual threat who was very hard to stop,” McNeal said. “His first year, he had a big offensive line, an experienced offensive line [returning from a state title team] and he didn’t have to try to carry every game for us.
“This year, he played a bigger role. He did miss some games with injuries, but when he was in there he had multiple touchdown passes along with multiple touchdown runs. That did add a great deal to our offense.”