Chris Long, an unrestricted free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles, won the 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for the extraordinary work and contributions he has made in communities in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Missouri, and Massachusetts. Hailing from Charlottesville, VA, Chris is the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame member Howie Long, whose talents he clearly inherited.
Chris played college football at the University of Virginia, where he was recognized as a unanimous All-American. He was selected by the St. Louis Rams as the second overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Long has also played for the New England Patriots, winning a championship with them in Super Bowl LI in 2017. In 2018, he won Super Bowl LII with the Eagles, who in turn defeated the Patriots.
Chris met his wife, Megan, at the University of Virginia, where Megan was a member of the women’s lacrosse team. They married in 2013 and now have two sons.
During a trip to Tanzania in 2013 to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for the first time, Chris was struck by the lack of clean water in the country. In response, he started Waterboys in 2015. The organization began with a goal to build 32 sustainable wells – one for each team in the NFL – in Tanzania. In 2018, Waterboys achieved that goal, and now plans to bring clean water to 1 million people worldwide.
Later in 2015, Chris and Megan established the Chris Long Foundation, which works to support bright futures for individuals and their communities. Chris donated his full NFL salary in 2017 to charity, with the last 10 game salaries going to Pledge 10 for Tomorrow and other organizations focused on making learning and college a reality for low-income children in Philadelphia, Boston, and St. Louis.
This past season, Chris donated a quarter of his salary to launch the “First Quarter for Literacy Drive.” The program is designed to put more books into the hands of children in underserved neighborhoods and raise awareness about the direct connection between early-reading proficiency and quality of life over the long term. It also aims to build excitement and awareness around the role parents and caregivers play in raising readers. The program is partnered with United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) and in support of Philadelphia’s Read By 4th campaign (RB4).
Chris and Megan chose to focus their education philanthropy this season on promoting early-reading proficiency by the fourth grade. They wanted to address the documented correlation between fourth-grade reading proficiency and long-term academic success and high school graduation rates. Chris and Megan plan to distribute more than 25,000 books for children in underserved neighborhoods to build at-home libraries, as well as fund the creation of three Chris Long Book Nooks that serve as neighborhood-based reading areas for families.
“Educational opportunity and equity are the best gateway to a better tomorrow for everyone in America,” said Chris.