Rien Vartan Long is an NFL player for the Tennessee Titans. Defensive tackle, and one of the top defensive tackles in the 2003 NFL Draft. Uniform #99. Played for the Washington State Cougars in college. Earned two varsity letters in football for coach Ted Beyer at Anacortes High. A late-comer to the sport of football, playing just two years in high school, earned four varsity letters in basketball and two in track, throwing the discus and shot, for which he won the 1st place in 1999 Washington State Track Competition.
Born Aug 7, 1981 in Los Angeles, CA. Parents are Lori Bailey Cunningham (half Armenian on mother's side) and David Cunningham. Also has a younger brother Devan Long who played football for University of Oregon and is entered in the 2006 NFL draft.
Identifies closely with his Armenian heritage. Rien Long’s great-grandfather, Toros Vartanian (from Kharpert) and his great-grandmother, Elizabeth Krekorian (from Palu), fled the Ottoman Empire to the United States in the early 1900s. Many of their relatives who remained in the Ottoman Turkey perished in the Armenian Genocide. His grandmother, Gladys Jo Vartanian was born in Rhode Island.
Rien visited Armenia for the first time in March, 2006. Long’s right arm bears a tattoo of the Armenian flag. On his left arm are two tattoos: an Armenian knot-work eternity symbol and a graphic representation of the Armenian letters of his name "Vartan." He is single, and splits his time between Nashville and Anacortes, Washington. Has one son, Gavon LEO (5/31/02).
Draft: 2003 - 4th round (29th pick) by the Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans Lineman Visits Armenia, Karabagh
LOS ANGELES - In January, Rien Long became only the 4th Armenian American in 50 years to complete three seasons in the NFL. In March, the 24-year-old 6'6", 300-pound defensive lineman for the Tennessee Titans traveled to his ancestral homeland of Armenia.
Long was joined on his journey by his mother and grandmother: three generations of Armenian-Americans "returning" to Armenia for the first time, since Rien Long's great-grandparents, Toros Vartanian and Elizabeth Krekorian fled to America right before the Ottoman Turks began systematically killing 1.5 million Armenians in 1915.
The entire trip was filmed for a documentary that debuted at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA on June 18, 2006. It has also played at film festivals in Hollywood and Washington, DC.
"The Long journey From the NFL to Armenia" was shot in Nagorno Karabagh; California, Tennessee, Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and in more than 10 cities in Armenia.
From Yerevan to Gyumri to Sevan to Karabagh, Long toured historical sites and visited with the people of Armenia. He even dropped in on Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, where the conversation dealt more with American football than Armenian foreign policy.
"The highlight for me was visiting Karabagh itself," Long said. "I was especially impressed with Father Ter Hovanes at Gandzasar Monastery. His stories of the war with the Azeris put a lot of thing we consider struggles in our country into whole different perspective. It was truly inspiring."
Among others, stops included the Sartarabad Genocide Memorial, a maternity clinic in earthquake-ravaged Akhuryan, Etchmiadzin, Erebuni, Garni Temple, Geghard Monastery, an after-school program for at-risk youth, and Yerablur National cemetery, where Long met veterans of the war in Karabagh.
Long, who sports a tattoo of the Armenian flag on his right arm, was in Glendale on June 18 for the debut of the documentary.
For more information, readers can log on to the website of Globalist Films @ www.globalistfilms.com or call filmmaker Peter Musurlian at 818) 500-1234.
Updated from a California Courier article
IN THE PUBLIC VIEW: November 2003
by Hrag Vartanian
For sport fans, there is a new face in the NFL that promises to give Armenians a presence in an all-American sport. Rien Long was picked by the Tennessee Titans as a fourth round draft pick in April of this year after an impressive career at Washington State where he scored 13 sacks last year alone.
The 6’6”, 302 pound rookie defensive tackle won the 2002 Outland Trophy, an honor reserved for the best college interior lineman, and great things are expected from the Los Angeles native who is locked into a four-year contract with Tennessee.
Born Erien (pronounced aryan) Long, his parents decided to drop the first letter of his first name because of the associations the word evokes with white supremacist groups that are commonplace in the Pacific Northwest. In the interest of avoiding any confusion they chose the simpler Rien (pronounced Ryan). “It was probably a good decision,“ he says.
Still adjusting to his whirlwind journey to the pros, he’s taking it all in stride. “It’s been just a crazy road. If you asked me five or six years ago if I’d be in the NFL I’d be laughing at you. I was thinking I was a basketball player at that time. I never even played football till my junior year in high school,“ Long admits.
Known as a tough player that hustles to compete, he’s had his share of knee and shoulder injuries but the consensus is that if he stays healthy, bulks up a little more and works on his speed and agility he has a great future ahead. While some teams passed on Long early in the draft, the Titans are betting that the he’ll be up to the challenges of the field.
The whole experience is still surreal for the rookie who is only the second NFL player of Armenian heritage, “I don’t know if I’ve been able to step back from it all, it’s really been a whirlwind, just being in camp and practicing. It’s a pretty amazing thing, I love it.“
Proud of his Armenian heritage and a history buff, he sports a unique tattoo on his right bicep that is the seventh letter of the Armenian alphabet (H). He explains that the letter is related to Moses and the burning bush. In the Biblical story, the prophet asks God who he should say sent him and God answers, “I am who I am“ or eootyoun (being) in Armenian. “There’s Armenian blood in me and it looks good. It is a reminder of what the big plan is,“ he says.
When the season begins, Armenian fans across the country will be glued to their TVs wondering if Long will reach his potential and shine in the spotlight. Does Long think the Titans have a shot at the Superbowl? “Oh yeah,“ he says with confidence. “I’d never say no.“