Ethan Long came to Arizona State in 2019 to fight for the starting quarterback spot. He was nicknamed “Captain America” by head coach Herm Edwards for his versatility, work ethic, and All-American appeal. He was the first player in program history to hold the team captaincy as a true freshman.
But now “Captain America” is heading elsewhere.
Long, whose only shots in the past two years have come on special teams, put his name on the transfer portal this week, seeking a chance to return to the pitch in an integral role, something he misses.
He has two years of eligibility left and wants to play quarterback, despite being listed in the portal as a tight end.
“It just comes down to wanting to go out and make the most of the two years I have left in my sporting career. I want to go out and just have fun,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed my time here and I love my teammates and the relationships I’ve built so I don’t regret my time here.”
Players come and go, with the transfer portal changing the dynamics of college athletics. Changes of scenery usually come down to playing time or a change of coach and it’s not always an amicable parting.
But Long isn’t the typical transfer, bitter about not getting enough playing time. It’s more in his nature to appreciate what he got out of the experience.
Long didn’t leave sooner because of the family he had in the area. The family maintained a dual residence, with their home base being in Dolores, Colorado. They also had a spot locally with Long’s sister Makayla, a standout athlete at Perry High School, and her older brother Seth who was on the Northern Arizona football team.
Long’s maternal grandparents live in Scottsdale.
But now Makayla has left for Baylor where she competes in track and field competitions. Seth’s playing days are over despite still being at NAU, having applied for physical therapy school. Mother Suzanne returned to Colorado. So now is the right time for Ethan to transfer.
“We’ve had some great family time here and I’ve enjoyed all the time we’ve had together,” he said. “If I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted it was something I had to sacrifice, it was worth it. I’ll go somewhere else and we’re all still living our lives so we probably won’t have much time Still together.”
Long came to ASU as one of three newcomers to the quarterback room along with Jayden Daniels, who became the starter, and Joey Yellen, who later traded to Pitt. Dillon Sterling-Cole, the replacement for former starter Manny Wilkins, was also there.
Long could have been fourth on the depth chart but was used in some attacking packages due to his versatility, which was some consolation.
This role virtually disappeared the following year. He got time at halfback and near end as well as special teams coverage units, but that was reserved for the practice field.
Long said former defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales often tried to get him on that side of the ball as a safety for Tillman, but he preferred the offense.
When asked if he thought he had a good shot at quarterback, Long said yes, but the turnover of offensive coordinators from Rob Likens to Zak Hill didn’t help him.
“Nothing against Coach Hill, but I wasn’t his man and that’s okay. I know it’s like that most of the time with a new coach,” he said. “I just felt like I was never going to be in the mix after that change.”
It wasn’t until Daniels and Bourguet both caught COVID-19 last fall during ASU’s pandemic hiatus that Long was returned to the quarters room, solely for the purpose of depth.
“He’s added a level of maturity to the room and he’s just one of those guys who can bring everyone together and has never complained about not having more of a chance to play,” Bourguet said, also one of Long’s housemates.
This season, Long has played every game in a lesser role as a starter on special teams. The Sun Devils were left with a void there when punter Michael Turk was transferred to Oklahoma. Long snapper Gage King is another of Long’s housemates and the two often trained alone.
When the titular need arose, King spoke up on Long’s behalf.
For now, it will be a waiting game for Long. Because he hasn’t played in this position for two years, he will not be the most coveted transfer in this position. He had heard of some coaches before, but many were the ones who recruited him out of high school, so there was an existing relationship.
Unlike former teammates DeaMonte “Chip” Trayanum, Johnny Wilson and Tommi Hill, who found new homes right away, Long knows he’ll likely have to wait until late April or early summer after the schools have completed spring drills and have a chance to reevaluate their rosters, with another wave of athletes entering the portal at that time.
Long, who will be graduating with an integrative health degree in May, says he would prefer a school on the West Coast or in the Midwest, but isn’t ruling anything out.
“Like everyone else, I had a bit of an ego out of high school and wanted to play at a Power 5 school,” he said. “But now it’s just about getting the chance to play and finding a place where the coach doesn’t already have his guy.”
Bourguet has no doubt that Long will succeed. The two have a whiteboard in their house and often map plays and talk about defensive dynamics. Long also believes his playing time in other positions, even if only in training, will help him.
“He’s a quarterback at heart,” Bourguet said. “We go out and throw all the time and he can always throw it. He has a good football IQ so I don’t think he will struggle to make that move there. As they say, you can take a bear out of the antlers, but you can’t take the antlers out of the bear.”
Subscribe to azcentral.com today.