Fox Sports’ Joe Buck is one of the best-known play-by-play announcers in football. Chris Long played in the league for 11 seasons. It’s only logical, then, that their paths crossed from time to time over the years.
What makes their story unusual is that one encounter between the announcer and the defensive lineman took place in Africa. It forever changed Long’s life and has contributed to saving the lives of an untold number of others.
And it’s all because of a chance meeting in Tanzania.
Chris Long enjoyed a solid NFL career
Everything in Chris Long’s background pointed to promising potential on the field and in life. The son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long and brother of retired NFL guard Kyle Long was an All-American at the University of Virginia, where he studied sociology.
The St. Louis Rams made Long the No. 2 selection of the 2008 NFL draft, after Jake Long and immediately before Matt Ryan, one of just five first-rounders to enjoy a longer pro career than the defensive end. Long played eight seasons with the Rams, one with the New England Patriots, and two for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Although he never made a Pro Bowl, Long started 103 games and played in a total of 162. He registered 70 sacks and 15 forced fumbles.
He left the sport after the 2018 season with two Super Bowl rings, more than $92.3 million in career earnings (See: Spotrac.com), and one of the most prestigious awards in the sport: the Walter Payton NFL Man of the year Award. The honor was an acknowledgment of Long’s charitable work, which included donating his 2017 salary to charities.
A chance meeting between Joe Buck and Chris Long
After completing his sixth NFL season, St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long took off to Africa on an ambitious adventure. The man who tackled quarterbacks and running backs for a living wanted to tackle climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, which at 19,341 feet high is the continent’s highest peak.
The grueling climb was a success, and Long returned to his hotel to relax and recover from the adventure. While there, though, he bumped into Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck, the network’s lead voice on NFL and MLB telecasts. Buck and Doug Pitt, the brother of actor Brad Pitt, were in Tanzania as part of a charitable project to drill wells and improve the quality of drinking water.
Intrigued, Long tagged along to see what Buck and Pitt were up against and what drilling wells entailed. What he saw was disturbing.
“When you see a four-year-old kid drinking water from the same pond where animals defecate, you cannot help but be motivated to do something,” Long said, according to Huddle Up.
Upon returning to the United States, Long started pulling together a plan to make a difference. In 2015, he began collaborating on “Waterboys,” an initiative with other NFL players.
The Waterboys raise money to dig wells in Africa
Having seen first-hand the horrible state of water supplies in Tanzania after meeting Joe Buck, Chris Long set about raising $1.6 million. With wells costing $50,000 apiece, that amount would allow workers to drill 32 wells – one representing each NFL team.
According to Huddle Up, Long and Nate Boyer, who had a brief stint with the Seattle Seahawks, started an annual climb of Mount Kilimanjaro to raise some of the funds by recruiting other players who would bring in sponsors.
Impressed by what the football players were doing, basketball player Malcolm Brogdon, now with the Indiana Pacers, started an NBA version in 2018 called Hoops2O. That spinoff quickly raised more than $275,000.
All told, the football and basketball efforts have given an estimated 350,000 people access to clean water.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.