Kyle Long was hanging with Travis Kelce following the NFC Championship, after their brothers - defensive end Chris Long and offensive lineman Jason Kelce, both of the Philadelphia Eagles - had just punched their tickets to the Super Bowl. And at one point, a lightbulb of sorts went off in Kelce's head, and he turned and hit Long with this message:
"Oh, you guys have (Matt) Nagy now. You're gonna be awesome."
Long was honored with the Ed Block Courage Award on Tuesday, the same day Bears players were allowed to report to Halas Hall for the first stages of the 2018 offseason program. Nagy addressed his players Tuesday morning and delivered a message that resonated with the longest-tenured (but no longer oldest) member of the Bears.
"I'd say that everybody's very, very, very excited to get started," Long said. "It's a fresh feel and we're all really stoked about it."
Long said his first impression of Nagy is that the 39-year-old first-time head coach is a "straight shooter" and an "offensive genius," which fits with the comment provided by Kelce to Long back in January.
But it's not just Nagy that has Long - who underwent procedures on his shoulder, elbow and neck in the offseason but described them as "minor" - excited to get back to work. After Nagy hired Harry Hiestand to be his offensive line coach, Long talked to a number of Hiestand's former players - including former Bears center Olin Kreutz and former Notre Dame and current Baltimore Ravens tackle Ronnie Stanley - about his new coach.
"I know that he is one of the most underrated hires in football this offseason," Long said. "I know from speaking to many of his players from college and in the pros that they speak very highly of him and that they're very excited to see me get to work with him."
There's always excitement at this time of the year, with free agency largely in the rearview mirror and the prospect of adding more players through the draft looming at the end of the month. But this is a different kind of excitement than the Bears have had in the past - pairing an offensive-minded, young coach with a rookie quarterback who impressed his teammates a year ago has brought a certain buzz to Lake Forest.
Bears players will start to really get to know Nagy over the next few months. But for Long, he was already confident in what Trubisky can do in 2018 not just from a production standpoint, but from a leadership one too. And that'll come to the forefront as the offseason program rolls on in the coming weeks and months.
"What Mitch Trubisky was born with was something that not a lot of people were born with," Long said. "I can't explain it. When you're around him, you feel it and it's real. (He has a) quiet confidence and a sense of calm and comfortability with the situation, any situation he's put in."