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Rams’ Shelton, Long Take Pasadena Roots to Super Bowl

First published in the Feb. 10 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.

Millions of Angelenos will be tuning in Sunday to the most-watched television event in America.
The Super Bowl returns to the Los Angeles region for the first time since 1993 — a game in which UCLA great Troy Aikman led the Dallas Cowboys to a 52-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills at the Rose Bowl — and elated fans will be cheering for the hometown Rams as they take on the Cincinnati Bengals in the 56th edition of the Big Game.
Pasadena residents will have even more to root for Sunday with two of its own running out of the tunnel and onto the field at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium. Coleman Shelton and David Long, both Pasadena natives, are determined to help the Rams claim only the second Super Bowl title in Los Angeles’ history (the first was won by the then-L.A. Raiders in 1983). Their accomplishments add to what has already been a remarkable year for Pasadena football products, one of them being standout collegiate quarterback Bryce Young, who won the Heisman Trophy in December and led the University of Alabama to the national championship game.
“It’s amazing,” Shelton, who was signed by the Rams in 2019, told the Outlook on Monday. “It’s a really cool experience to play for your hometown team. It’s obviously something you dream about, growing up playing football, to play in a Super Bowl. It’s almost surreal that we’re here.”
Long, a standout at Michigan who was selected in the third round (79th overall) in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Rams, isn’t caught up in the euphoria of reaching the pinnacle of professional football, but is concentrated on the game and his opponent.
“I’m aware of the opportunity and the moment and the fact that we are playing at our home stadium,” he said, “but I’m very much focused on the game and trying to make this as normal, as routine as possible and go out there and play as best as we can.”
Aside from hailing from the same Pasadena area, the duo also shares the same high school alma mater. Shelton and Long are representing Loyola High School of Los Angeles, graduating as Cubs in 2013 and 2016, respectively. Shelton, 26, attended Clairbourn and Polytechnic prior to attending Loyola, and Long, 23, was enrolled at Norma Coombs Elementary and Marshall Fundamental Secondary School before going to Bishop Alemany in Mission Hills for his freshman year. Long transferred to Loyola as a sophomore, a decision he said was one of the best he made in his life.
“It was everything I needed in a high school experience and more,” said Long, who still visits Lucky Boy in Pasadena for their famous breakfast burritos. “I think that everything people say happened to them in college happened to me in school. I can’t put into words how thankful I am for my time at Loyola.”

Photo by Jeff Lewis / L.A. Rams
David Long, who attended Norma Coombs Elementary and Marshall Fundamental in Pasadena, was essential to the Rams in their playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals. The third-year cornerback intercepted a pass and returned it 3 yards for a score, which is now the shortest interception return for a touchdown in NFL postseason history.

Shelton went on to have a stellar collegiate career, helping the Washington Huskies win the Pac-12 championship in 2016 for the first time in 16 years. Long was one of the top defensive players at Michigan and was selected first team All-Big Ten in 2018.
In their third year with the Rams, the two are now playing in one of the biggest stages in all of sports.
“It’s kind of hard to believe that this is how everything has panned out so far,” said Coleman. “It’s hard to describe. It’s something that’s very exciting, and very much like a storybook. … There’s obviously a lot of motivation here. We’re playing for our hometown, the city we play for. It’s special.”
The Rams have been playing their best football after hitting a rough patch in November when they dropped three consecutive games. The squad bounced back to win five of their final six regular season contests to secure a fourth seed in the National Football Conference.
“We’re gelling right now,” said Long. “We hit adversity at a good point in the season where we could turn it around. We’ve got a lot of veteran guys on the team that have been here before.”
The team has remained competitive since falling to Tom Brady (often called the greatest of all time) and the New England Patriots, 13-3, in the 2019 Super Bowl, but the acquisition of talented quarterback Matt Stafford via trade from the Detroit Lions, which drafted him No. 1 overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, put the Rams in the Super Bowl conversation heading into the 2021 season. They have also acquired star linebacker Von Miller, defensive back Eric Weddle and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
“The mindset whenever you go into a season is you always want to win the Super Bowl,” Shelton said. “When [Stafford] came along, he brought that presence and leadership, and he’s done such a good job of bringing this team together and giving us a chance to go out and to do this thing. I can’t say enough about him.”
For Long, Weddle, a 37-year-old free safety who played at Alta Loma High School in Rancho Cucamonga, has been essential to the defensive side since coming out of retirement.
“The addition of Eric Weddle has done a lot to the backend of the secondary, helping us just home in our identity and play fast and confident,” Long said. “I think we’ve always had these things; it was just a matter of putting things together the right way.”
Stafford and Co. certainly have put things together during the postseason, starting off with a 34-11 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Long played in 34% of the defensive snaps and scored his first NFL career touchdown intercepting a pass from Kyler Murray and returning it 3 yards for a touchdown to put his team up 21-0 midway through the second quarter.
“That was my first time playing a lot in a playoff game,” Long said. “My focus was about just trying to make sure that I was the best I could be for my team, helping us win the game, whether it be a pick-six, a big tackle or even just communicating. It just happened to be a pick-six and it happened to be the shortest pick-six in postseason history.”
Shelton and Long then helped their team dethrone the reigning Super Bowl champions, defeating Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 30-27, with a last-second field goal Jan. 23.
“It was awesome; we knew it would be a big challenge going in, playing on the road against a legendary player like Tom Brady,” Shelton said. “We just trusted our process and trusted each other. We had confidence in each other, and it worked out.”
The Rams followed that up with an even bigger victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game. Despite having lost to the Northern California team twice during the regular season, L.A. won bragging rights with a 20-17 win over its rival.
“We’ve had a lot of hard-fought games against these guys, and it was nice to come out on top, lifting us to the Super Bowl,” Shelton said.
The only roadblock in Shelton and Long’s dream of winning the Big Game are the Bengals, a team that has been on a hot streak the past two months. Cincinnati defeated the Las Vegas Raiders in the first round before upsetting the top two seeds in the American Football Conference in the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs, a franchise that represented the AFC in the previous two Super Bowls.
Oddsmakers have the Bengals as the underdogs by 4 ½ points, but Shelton isn’t underestimating them. He and Long remain focused on themselves, their teammates and the game plan.
“They’re obviously a good team,” Shelton said. “They wouldn’t have made it this far if they weren’t. There’s only two teams left so we’re just going out there and playing with confidence.”
Super Bowl LVI kicks off Sunday at 3:30 p.m. and can be viewed on NBC.


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