SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse punter Rob Long will have to undergo post-operation treatment after doctors found malignant cells in a brain tumor removed a week ago.
Orange coach Doug Marrone delivered the news Tuesday, moments after finishing practice.
"Our thoughts and our prayers are with Rob," Marrone said. "He's young, he's healthy. Speaking with him, he's in unbelievable spirits. I told him he has the whole football program and the university, the students, everyone behind him."
Marrone said Long plans to be at the Dec. 30 New Era Pinstripe Bowl when Syracuse plays Kansas State at Yankee Stadium. Treatment will begin after the new year.
"He'll be coming to us on Sunday just like the rest of the team and be with us the whole time," Marrone said of his first bowl game as coach. "He knows how we feel about him."
Long said in a statement released by the university that "we remain optimistic and positive toward a favorable outcome."
The senior, a captain for two years, notified the Syracuse sports medicine staff that he had been experiencing headaches for several weeks. An MRI exam performed Dec. 2 revealed the tumor, which originally was believed to be benign.
"It's difficult," Marrone said. "You just try to understand things, and I think we question that quite a bit in life. Why does this happen to this person? Why does this happen now? It brings you back down to earth, knowing where your priorities are in life, I can tell you that.
"Here's Rob saying, 'Well, Coach, you have to be worried. You have to go out and win a football game,' " Marrone said. "But he's a remarkable person and he'll fight this, and we'll overcome it."
Long finished his Syracuse career second on the school's punting average list at 43.3 yards per punt. That ranks ninth among active punters in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
This season, Long averaged 43.8 yards, second in the Big East Conference behind Pittsburgh's Dan Hutchins and third on Syracuse's single-season record list.
"The way he handled the situation was very strong," said senior tailback Delone Carter, who roomed with Long last year. "We've got to be strong for him. We're going to go out with him in mind."