Anthony Mīc: Going back to 2002 when you won the Outland Trophy, was there any doubt whether you’d receive the award?
Rien Long: I was so shocked. I mean, I was just happy to be there. That [Brett] Romberg guy thought he had it IN THE BAG. (Laughs) He was just beside himself.
AM: You left after your junior year…do you ever think about what it would have been like if you came back for your senior season?
RL: Oh I still have dreams that, for whatever reason, I still have my last year of eligibility. Like they don’t really care that I went and played in the NFL, “Oh no, you can come back!” (Laughs) “You’re good. You’re eligible still.” I mean, that “what if” game will haunt you. It would have been great to stay that next year. I just wish I was getting more than $500/month. (Laughs) I was going in debt playing college football. I was in the worst position because my parents were right around middle class, so I didn’t qualify for all of the money made available to the scholarship athletes.
AM: I understand to an extent the argument of just getting a college degree is payment enough. Yes, it helps you a ton. But you don’t have as many opportunities to go out and get as much work experience as the majority of the student body. Your full-time job is being an athlete.
RL: The arguments are based on what it was like 50 years ago. Back when it wasn’t as much of a business. Now it’s worth billions of dollars. BILLIONS. Coaches are getting paid millions of dollars. And I’m not saying they [players] should get paid NFL money or anything. But if I was getting paid the equivalent of having a full-time job, I wouldn’t have even left! I would have kept grayshirting, blue, blackshirting. I’d just hang around! (Laughs)
AM: You’ve gotten into comedy recently, right?
RL: Oh that happened for like a few months.
AM: Oh really?!
RL: Yeah it’s kinda cool because everything has set me up for the next thing. Like, me being a basketball player set me up for football. Then me being a football player set me up for bartending. Then I thought I wanted to do stand up comedy. I tried that for a couple months. Then I realized I like making shit, so I got into wood working. Then right around the beginning of 2013, my brother (Devan) and I asked ourselves, “If you had a billion dollars, what would you do?” I realized I wanted to travel and do epic shit. So we developed this show and pitched it to a good friend at a production company…and now it’s turned into this rites of passage tv show; where it’s two brothers going around the world and going through rites of passage, what it means to be a man in other cultures. It’s like Anthony Bourdain and Bear Grylls have kids and they’re called the Wildboyz. So we hooked up with Animal Planet, shot our pilot, edited that out. A couple weeks ago they said they want to air the pilot sometime in June. So look out for that. ("Going Native" aired Sunday 6/7 on Animal Planet. Click here to watch)
AM: Dude, that is awesome! So who’s the more outgoing of the two of you? Who will be the more narrator-type?
RL: Uhhhh…I think Devan is. Especially the way it got edited. I’m just kind of like this big, funny, really nice guy with a bunch of one-liners. Devan is a lot more impressive than I am. I’m more laid back, more chill.
AM: I was totally under the impression that you were in stand-up comedy these days.
RL: Yeah that was a long time ago (laughs). I would like to get back into that. My first time [performing], it was awesome. I just killed it. The second time…I didn’t really practice, it was all new material-which I guess I shouldn’t have done-NOT GOOD. I forgot half my bit, and I was like, “This is HORRIBLE. I don’t EVER want to do this again.” But I would go back to it, I just really need to practice.
AM: So you got cocky after the first performance, and thought, “Oh I GOT this!”
RL: “I’m ready for Letterman, man!” Nope. No…I…am…NOT.
AM: What’s more nerve racking: getting on stage to do a set or getting ready for a football game?
RL: WAY more on stage, man. It’s just you, with no gear on. I mean I f***** up all the time in games and no one would ever know it. The only guy I knew I would get reamed from is my coach.
AM: I guess I’m just trying to draw comparisons with football and comedy…
RL: Here’s the deal. Every football player, after you’re done, you’re chasing that high. I mean, football is a drug. Playing football is just amazing. There’s no better feeling than playing in front of thousands of crazy fans. So there’s that. And after that’s done, you’re like, “How can I do that again? How can I get that adrenaline rush?” So it’s the same with stand up comedy. There’s nothing like making a whole room laugh. Oh my God, it’s very powerful. Stand-up is that same kind of drug, that same kind of high.
AM: Did I read correctly that you actually freakin’ died?!
RL: Yeah. That was a sweet little deal.
AM: Do you remember any of that?!
RL: Oh yeah. It was a game-changer. Definitely sets you down a different road. You know it’s one of those things where, yeah, it sucked. I lost a lot. But the shit I had to go through to get that experience was a lot. It’s priceless what that experience became.
AM: Makes you kind of cherish things, right?
RL: More or less. But it’s even more than that. It humbles you. You find contentment. And people are always like, “God, you’re so brave for going through all that.” I mean it’s all relative. Pain is relative. I don’t feel courageous at all. I wanted it to end…I didn’t want the pain. I would have easily taken door number two. But at some point through that whole deal, there’s a surrendering part; where you’re not giving up, but you just don’t give a f***. It’s just like, “Well I’m here. I can have self-pity and go down that road. And it will just lead me to more bullshit and suffering. Or I can go in that opposite direction.” There’s only one way to go from this place of pain and suffering; and it’s to just move forward.
Follow Rien: Twitter and Instagram (@cosmosgrouper)