Allen Park — Lions linebacker Steve Longa turned in one of the best performances of his young career during one of the worst weeks of his life.
Longa’s father, Etienne Longa, was killed last Thursday when he was struck by a car while trying to cross a road in Lower Mount Bethel Township in Pennsylvania. He was 55.
Steve Longa was excused from practice last Friday to tend to family matters, but he opted to return to the team and suit up for Sunday’s 14-7 win over the Vikings.
Longa, a second-year pro, responded by playing through the pain and logging a career-high 12 defensive snaps and four total tackles, two on defense and two on special teams.
While Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he couldn’t personally relate to what Longa was going through, he was impressed by his ability to overcome his devastating personal situation.
“I’ve only seen where guys have gone through it, and it’s not easy,” Caldwell said Monday. “He’s a courageous young man and his father was really close to him as well. So, it certainly took I think a lot for him to go out and do what he did.
“He came back and wanted to play. I thought he conducted himself appropriately and certainly played well and certainly know that his father’s proud of him as well.”
Following the game, Longa was awarded the game ball in the locker room by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata in a touching video posted on the Lions’ website.
“This game ball, losing both my parents at a young age, Steve Longa. This is for you buddy,” Ngata said in the video.
After Ngata gave Longa the football, the two embraced before the rest of the team surrounded Longa as he broke down the huddle to celebrate the team’s victory.
“(Ngata) wanted to give it to him because he understands and has gone through exactly what Steve’s going through right now,” Caldwell said. “So, I think for our entire team it was great to be able to kind of give him a big hug and obviously see him off because he went back home this morning.
“He’s got the arrangements coming up. It’s a difficult time for him so our prayers go up to him and his family and condolences. He’s a strong, young man, so he’ll be fine.”