ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Etienne Longa, the father of Detroit Lions linebacker Steve Longa, was killed Thursday after being hit by a car while walking across Route 611 in Lower Mount Bethel Township in Pennsylvania, according to the Northampton County coroner.
Etienne Longa was hit by an SUV traveling north on Route 611 when the driver tried to pass a truck tractor that was partially blocking one lane, according to Lehigh Valley Live. The SUV hit Longa as he was near the cab of the truck while the SUV was driving past.
Longa’s death was ruled an accident, according to the coroner.
Longa, 55, had been a professional soccer player in Cameroon for Dynamo Duoala and then worked in business before leaving for the United States in 2002 and moving to Warren, Michigan, without his family.
Steve Longa, his mother and sister joined his father in the U.S. in 2007 — first in Michigan before moving to New Jersey, where the family settled. In the time between 2002 and 2007, Steve Longa never saw his father and spoke with him only once a week by phone.
He saw his dad for the first time in years when he landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York when he flew to the U.S. for the first time in 2007. Their relationship, which had been separated by an ocean for a lot of his younger years, grew once Steve Longa came to the States.
He understood why his father left, and while he was in Cameroon, he continued having faith he would see his father again. When the Longas moved to the United States, Etienne Longa was still commuting from Michigan to New Jersey. He eventually quit his job to find one in New Jersey so he could be home every night.
When the family was settled, Etienne Longa was around all the time. His relationship with his son improved, and the two became extremely close. He even got to see him play an NFL game as a Detroit Lion on Monday Night Football in Week 2 this season when the Lions traveled to New Jersey to play the New York Giants.
“I’ve always loved my dad. I love my dad more than anybody,” Steve Longa told ESPN during an interview earlier this month. “Ever since I was young, even now, if there was something that happened in my life, I’m going to my dad. I don’t got to tell him nothing, but I know I’m going to him.
“Like I know I’m going to be all right, Dad. I need this. This happened. I’m not going to tell you all the details. I just need your help, and my dad won’t ask any questions. My dad will just be there for me. He would trust that I would only come to my dad if I really, really need help.”
Steve Longa said that trust with his father had always been there — even with the time missed when they were separated.
Steve Longa told ESPN earlier this month that his father was the reason he was allowed to play football. Like his father, Steve Longa was a soccer player in Cameroon — a good one. But when he came to the U.S., Steve Longa saw football was a more popular game.
“I remember I told my dad I was going to play football, and he asked if I was sure about it,” Steve Longa said. “He was shocked. And he wasn’t going to let me do it at first. But usually, the way me and my dad, ever since I was young, it’s always been, ‘You’ve got to convince me’ for me to say yes or no.
“Until you convince me, it don’t matter if it’s good or bad, if you convince me and you can really convince me that that’s the thing for you, I’m going to accept. So I had to come with stats, had to come with reasons why I could do it. I had to tell him that you can trust me, that I’m going to go and apply myself and get a scholarship.”
Steve Longa used common sense and numbers to convince his father to let him play football as a freshman. It took him asking his father three times. By his senior year, he got a scholarship to Rutgers.
Steve Longa was not at Lions practice Friday. It is unknown whether he will play for Detroit on Sunday when the Lions face the Minnesota Vikings.