In an era when so many wives and girlfriends of professional athletes are either eye candy or unfortunate victims of drug abuse and/or domestic violence, Diane Long sets the gold standard as a strong, intelligent woman able to balance motherhood with a strong sense of responsibility. Along with Olivia Manning, the two may definitely be the first ladies among NFL wives.

Having devoted more than 30 years of her life as a football wife/mom, Diane Addonizio initially met Howie Long when the two were students at Villanova Univeristy. In June of 1982, she married Long, while embarking on a legal career. One of her first experiences as an NFL wife that exposed her to pop culture came in 1992. A trading card set titled Pro Line Portraits was released. Just like the 1991 edition, the 1992 cards would feature randomly inserted cards of player’s wives. In addition, some of the cards would be autographed. Adorned in a Raiders jacket, a smiling Long would be featured on a trading card.

Diane Long football card from 1992 Pro Line Portraits
Diane Long football card from 1992 Pro Line Portraits

One of her most emotional experiences as a football mom took place during the 2013 NFL season when the St. Louis Rams took on the Chicago Bears. Oldest son Christopher, a former second overall pick by the Rams in the NFL Draft, followed in his father’s footsteps, NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, by playing at the defensive end position.
During their childhood, Diane had a license plate that read 3 Boy Zoo. It was not uncommon to find dirty socks and gum wrappers hidden throughout the home.

Younger by four years, Kyle was selected by the Bears in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Playing at the guard position, Kyle spent his Sunday trying to prevent Christopher and the rest of the Bears defense from stifling the Bears offensive attack. During the game, a scrap broke out between the two teams, as Chris, a former All-American at the University of Virginia pulled away Kyle in order to save him from ejection.

In earlier years, Christopher and Kyle would be fighting between each other. Of note, Diane made a stand early in Christopher’s life, advising him that if he continued to be mean to his brother, he would not be allowed to play Pop Warner football. Today, the younger Kyle is bigger, measuring in at 6-6, while Christopher is 6-3. The youngest son is Howie, Jr., born in 1990, currently an intern with the Oakland Raiders.

Even with her oldest son Christopher, selected over Glenn Dorsey by the St. Louis Rams with the second overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, she still played a prominent role. Akin to hockey superstar Sidney Crosby’s mom Trina (who sat for one season on the CWHL’s Board of Directors), who provided him with moral support on NHL Draft Day, Diane Long was equally important in her son’s first day as part of pro football.

Christopher’s day started with a missing toothbrush, followed by the absence of a clean white T-shirt to wear under his dress shirt. With mother around, she had the hotel supply a toothbrush while taking one of her husband’s T-shirt’s in order to get the all-too monumental draft day off to a right start for him.

As a side note, she would also provide a key role when Kyle, a two-sport star who was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 2008 MLB Draft, was a student-athlete for the Florida State Seminoles. Arrested on a DUI charge in January 2009, he would leave the school during the same month. Showing tough love, she would let Kyle work it out for himself, proud to see him mature by going into rehab and bouncing back with Pac-10 powerhouse Oregon.

Along with her son Kyle, she would participate in a panel discussion at the Walter Payton Center, part of a free football safety clinic for nearly 200 moms. Hosted by the Chicago Bears, the headline guests included NFL commissioner Roger Goodell; Bears chairman George McCaskey and TV celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz. Other wives in attendance included Chris Golic and Connie Payton.

The first clinic of its kind hosted by an NFL team, topics included education on concussion awareness, which featured the moms in attendance using techniques from Heads Up Football (launched by USA Football) in order to properly execute drills. Other topics included heat and hydration, along with proper equipment fitting. Long’s presence certainly had a profound effect. With all three of her sons having played the game, she shared with the moms in attendance her experiences about having her children play the game.

Acknowledging the importance of the family communicating and reaching a decision on allowing younger players to play football, her advice to the mothers in attendance was to maintain an open dialogue and stay involved. The fact that she admitted she is still worried when her sons play the game was heartwarming, as it shows the positive impact that mothers and wives can have in football. Certainly, her three boy zoo of Christopher, Kyle and Howie, Jr., can attest to her tremendous role as a football mom.