That football, the one he stuffed into his locker after the 1969 Rose Bowl -- it makes him smile now. More than four decades have passed, and that time has soothed Long's conscience. No longer does he hold a grudge toward his coaches for being relegated to the sideline for most of Ohio State's undefeated season in 1968.
Long took the majority of the snaps for the first four games of what developed into a school-record 22-game win streak. In 1968, however, as Ohio State rattled off 10 more victories and established itself as the nation's top team, Long watched Rex Kern run the offense.
For a while, Long couldn't stand it. Following the Buckeyes' triumph against USC in the Rose Bowl, when Woody Hayes presented him with a game ball for his leadership and help with preparation, Long shoved the football into his locker and never looked back.
As Urban Meyer's Buckeyes prepare to break that haughty mark, Long has finally accepted his college football fate. He's much more relaxed, much more at ease, much more aware of his involvement
He's at peace, at leisure. Who else eats pie for lunch?
Ohio State will capture its 23rd consecutive win if it defeats Indiana on Saturday at The Horseshoe. Meyer grabbed the reins of a program that lost seven games in 2011 and faced a bowl ban in 2012. Less than two years into his tenure, the Buckeyes are on the precipice of history.
"I find it fascinating," Long said. "This team is going to go potentially two undefeated seasons in a row. That's unreal."
Michigan snapped Ohio State's 22-game win streak with a 24-12 win in Ann Arbor, Mich., in the final week of the 1969 regular season. Earle Bruce, who served on Hayes' staff, wants Meyer's bunch to keep winning.
"I am a Buckeye. I went to school there," Bruce said. "I played there. I coached there. I was an assistant, a head coach. I'm for anything that's better than we had. I'm for any record breaking, anything. I wish [they would] go 50 straight and beat the [national] record."
Kern tunes in to the Buckeyes each Saturday from his California home. He has been impressed with the team's ability to keep its head above water, despite incessant scrutiny, a nonstop news cycle and constant distractions on social media.
"I'm delighted and thrilled that Ohio State has won that many games in a row and has the opportunity to continue to build on that," Kern said. "Anyone thinking short of that is not a real, true, loyal Buckeye fan. As a former player, I take that as a compliment that people are comparing Urban's team and what he has done so far to our team. It's wonderful to be remembered that way."
Long also appreciates the comparisons between the eras, though he admitted to an initial feeling of uneasiness about the potential eclipsing of his group's record.
"Inside, there's a feeling of, 'Oh, shoot, I hope that doesn't happen,'" Long said. "But there's a rational thing of, 'That's life.' Records are made to be broken. I think most people understand that change happens."
Change happened quickly in Columbus once Meyer took over. inherited a program that had just suffered its first losing season since 1988. Somehow, he steered the Buckeyes to an unbeaten year in his first season at the helm. A year later, the Buckeyes have maintained their unblemished record. Meyer has even refused to say the word "loss."
"It is crazy," said center Corey Linsley. "It's not surprising, though, because of how hard we've worked. But things like the win streak and clinching the Leaders Division, it's a lot of pressure on you and to think about that stuff and concentrate on…