For a few brief weeks last year, AJ Long was The Next Great Syracuse Orange Quarterback™.
A year later, his Syracuse career, and probably his football career, is over.
Obvious, AJ can't possibly be blamed for not failing to meet that criteria. The sophomore suffered three separate concussions during his high school career, which led to his medical-disqualification from the football team. As AJ told Stephen Bailey, "they were all freak accidents. There was nothing anyone could do to stop them." The first came in high school while playing safety, the second from an accident falling out of bed and the third suffered last week during practice. He was already dealing with nerve issues and recovering from a broken hand so the concussions merely sealed his football fate.
Long came to Syracuse with a whole lot of hype, mostly from himself. He told anyone listening that he intended to compete for the starting job right away. Scott Shafer once said "you don't need to worry about confidence when it comes to AJ."
He got his wish, getting thrown to the wolves against Florida State. But then he led the Orange to a big win over Wake Forest and all of a sudden many SU fans starting wondering why we don't just invest in Long and his long-term projections? He was the future. He was The Next Great Syracuse Orange Quarterback™.
Then AJ got hurt, missed some time, came back but never quite reached the same heights again. The broken hand led to talk of redshirting and by the time he was finally getting back on track Eric Dungey and Zack Mahoney had passed him by before concussions finished the story.
The truth is that the same fickle Orange fans who traded in Terrel Hunt for AJ Long after one good performance were the same ones to trade Long in for Eric Dungey after this season's Wake Forest game (Is Wake Forest some kind of NGSOQ™-kingmaker?). On to the next quarterback who can potentially take us back to the days when bowl games were a given and double-digit wins was a discussion.
So many NGSOQs™ have come and gone since Donovan McNabb. Site namesake Troy Nunes, Perry Patterson and Andrew Robinson all gave it a go. Greg Paulus and Drew Allen tried to accomplish it in one season and couldn't. Ryan Nassib came close and put up history-book numbers, though he lacked the aura that a McNabb or Don McPherson had.
Since Nassib, there's been Hunt, Allen, Charley Loeb, Austin Wilson, John Kinder, Mitch Kimble and Ashton Broyld. All came with NGSOQ™ dreams and all will leave or have left without reaching the mantle.
It's Eric Dungey's if he wants it. Actually, no, that's not right. Wanting it isn't enough. AJ Long still wants it, nothing has changed there.
It's whether or not the stars align allowing you to be NGSOQ™. Dungey has as much potential to get there as anyone we've seen at Syracuse.
For a brief moment, so did AJ Long.