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SDSU's football coach was once recruited by Army – to play basketball

San Diego State head coach Rocky Long looks out on to the field after Boise State scored their third touchdown in the second quarter at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017.

HAYNE PALMOUR IV/SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE/TNS

By KIRK KENNEY | The San Diego Union-Tribune (Tribune News Service) | Published: December 23, 2017

San Diego State's game against Army in the Armed Forces Bowl reminded SDSU head coach Rocky Long of the time he was recruited by West Point.

Long was a talented football player at Alta Loma High in the late 1960s, but the Black Knights weren't recruiting him in that sport. They recruited Long as a basketball player.

And the man who came into Long's living room to make the pitch was Bobby Knight, who was head coach at Army from 1965-71 before spending the next 30 years of his Hall of Fame career at Indiana.

"They got a list from all over the country of kids who had the academic background, had the academic ability and had ties to the military through their fathers or their families," said Long, whose father began a 30-year Army career during World War II. "I was on the list and they watched me on film or something playing basketball."

"They don't have any restrictions on guys they can take and all that stuff and I could have gotten in, so they tried to convince me to go to Army to play basketball."

Long said he didn't make the connection to Knight until years later when the Hoosiers were winning national championships.

"I remember him coming in," Long said, "and he wasn't near as big a name as he ended up being. I remember sitting there and not saying a word. He and my dad did all the talking."

"I think my dad was leaning toward me doing that. But I was a 5-foot-10 guy that didn't play the point. He also was a coach and realized that maybe I had a better future in football."

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