The fire of competition still burns brightly in Dick Longo’s heart
Dick Longo ’60 has embraced the competitive nature of sports since his high school and college days as a varsity athlete in football, baseball, basketball, and track, and in later years as a high school and college head coach.
At age 75, he’s still at it, keeping in shape through running while winning championships in tennis tournaments on a regular basis. He leaves no doubt as to why he continues his rigorous regimen at an age when many might prefer to simply take life a little more easily.
“The competition is what brings me to it,” he said. “The only place I can be competitive anymore is on the tennis court.”
Longo, who lives in Metairie, La., a suburb of New Orleans, is currently ranked No. 2 in Louisiana in the 75-80 age group by the United States Tennis Association, but was No. 1 for more than 20 years before a newcomer from Texas came in last year. He has been ranked as high as No. 12 in the South and has won 285 tournaments so far. His goal is 500 wins. He has won the state Senior Olympics tennis championship in his age group for 20 straight years.
Longo was introduced to tennis through intramurals at Transylvania, where he was a varsity baseball and basketball player under former head coach C. M. Newton. Other than that, he is a self-taught player who relies on his conditioning and ability to keep the ball in play to defeat his opponents. He plays singles exclusively, disdaining the less demanding doubles popular with many seniors.
“I used to come to the net all the time in my younger days, but now I stay mostly on the baseline,” he said. “I’m a counter-puncher—I keep the ball in play as long as I can. I figure if I can get the ball over the net one more time, my opponent’s going to make a mistake. One of my better lob shots is to the backhand corner—if I can get him on his heels back there, then I’ll come to the net.”
Longo was a high school basketball coach in Kentucky and Indiana before becoming assistant basketball coach at Tulane University in the late 1960s. He was head coach at Tulane for three years before leaving coaching to become a sales representative for Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt in their textbook lines, a position he still holds.
Longo grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and was a high school senior when Newton, a native of Ft. Lauderdale, recruited him to come to Transylvania.
“One day C. M. called and said, ‘I’m going to come by and pick you up in my station wagon and take you up to Transylvania and you’re going to play ball for me.’ I had an offer from Florida State University to play football, but it was an all-men’s school at the time.
“I’m so glad C. M. recruited me. I loved my days at Transylvania, where I met my lovely wife (Beverly Jouett Longo ’60). If it weren’t for Transylvania, I wouldn’t be happily married for 52 years now. It has a dear place in my heart.”