Over the past year, I have been privileged to study the Air Raid offense through various experiences – observing the Eastside Eagles and Rich Hargitt, reading books, watching coaching videos, and talking with coaches on twitter as well as one on one. I had the chance to interview the Offensive Coordinator at Sam Houston State, Phil Longo. Located in Texas, SHSU is one of the premier FCS programs in the country and has both played and won more games in the last five years except for North Dakota State. Coach Longo is an excellent coach who has enjoyed many successes as a coach in both well known and less known places. In order to understand his successes, we must understand his coaching history.

Before Sam Houston State – The Beginning

Before arriving at Sam Houston State, he has coached at the FCS non-scholarship level, Division III, and Division II levels. His break into coaching came when he received an internship with the Philadelphia Eagles. His head coaches as college players were John Bunting and KC Keeler. John Bunting was the defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl Champion Rams, and Bunting helped him obtain the internship with the Eagles. KC Keeler is now the head coach at Sam Houston State and has helped Longo throughout the years.

Longo was the most successful coach in Parsippany Hills High School’s history for four years and then became the offensive coordinator at William Patterson University, a Division III school in New Jersey.

‘One of the Best Coaching Jobs We Ever Did’

His career then took a different turn as he moved up to a unique level of football – the FCS non-scholarship level. This is a unique classification of schools (mostly in the North East) that are Division I in sports but do not have the resources to have a regular football program. He was the offensive coordinator there and became the head coach when the former head coach retired. While he went 7-14 there, he considers one of the best coaching jobs he was ever a part of to be his second and final year as the head coach. La Salle was in a difficult situation because they had recently brought back the football program and they did not have the resources to compete with most FCS schools. They would compete against schools such as Wagner, Monmouth, and Duquesne who had significantly more resources than La Salle and whom could offer scholarships. It is there that he tested concepts and plays for use in the Air Raid system. Although the systems are radically different, the flexbone and the Air Raid share this common theme – if our system lets teams compete with lesser talent, what can it do when we have equal or superior talent?

Read Part II

* Image from Phil Longo Twitter Page