TAMPA — John Lynch, one of the nicest men and ferocious competitors in NFL history, is about to set a North American speed record for shortest time between Ring of Honor inductions. Lynch will be added to the Bucs' Ring of Honor during Thursday night's game against Atlanta just 10 days after joining the Denver Broncos' Ring of Fame on Oct. 24.
"A quick turnaround," Lynch said with a laugh in a phone conversation. "And in between, I did a game in London for Fox. What a great ride."
Let's slow down Thursday to remember John Terrence Lynch, 45, super safety, one of the greatest Bucs. He hasn't made it to Canton, into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He belongs there. No matter. No. 47 belongs wherever and whenever people talk about Bucs history.
"He's a Buc," Bucs Hall of Famer Warren Sapp said. "You go ask him what he is. And if he says he's anything else, I'll kill him. He's a Buc."
"My personality is you're all in wherever you're at," Lynch said. "But Tampa was where I was raised in football. It's where I cut my teeth, going from a borderline special teams player to a guy who's in a Ring of Honor. I had 11 years there, won a championship there, and some of my greatest friends are on that Ring of Honor with me."
People think of Lynch whenever they think of that Super Bowl night, the Bucs winning it all in Lynch's hometown of San Diego. People think of Lynch whenever a football player hits another player and window panes rattle and fillings loosen. Football and passion. That was Lynch, 15 NFL seasons, nine Pro Bowls, forever a treasure, on and off the field, for Bucs fans.
Lynch is now a football analyst for Fox. But he's a Buc when you come down to it, even after the team unceremoniously dumped him after the 2003 season.
"In retrospect, time heals all wounds," Lynch said. "I kind of understand what they were thinking. Fortunately, there were teams willing to give me a new chance."
Did we mention he made the Pro Bowl his final four seasons after he left Tampa Bay?
He gave the Bucs everything he had. He has a 4-inch surgical scar on the back to prove it. I once wrote that Lynch was two men. There was the soft-spoken voice you heard during the week, the good guy, the softie who fought back tears whenever he heard God Bless America. Then came Sundays. Softie disappeared. John Lynch was there to take you down. He rang bells.
"But I never met a player who thought I was a cheap player, a cheap-shot artist," Lynch said.
Sometimes you wonder about the toll all those hits took, or eventually will take.
"My head was always good," Lynch said. "For a guy who played 15 years, I'd put myself up against anyone in terms of fewest concussions. I'm very healthy today. I still run. My head feels great."
Lynch lives in San Diego with his wife, Linda, and their four children. This just in: They're beautiful.
Jake, 17 plays baseball and football. Lindsay, 15, plays a mean tennis game. Lilly, 15, plays super tennis and soccer. Leah, 9, does soccer and tennis, too, when not lighting up everyone's day.
I never get tired of one Lynch story. Lynch retired from football at One Buc Place in 2008, altogether fitting — he's a Buc. But he did so only after one final fling, playing a couple of weeks for New England and Bill Belichick in the 2008 preseason.
"People ask me the most fun I ever had playing football and I always surprise them," Lynch said. "It's a game no one ever saw, because it was the fourth preseason game and Bill and I had come to an agreement that I was likely done."
Lynch asked Belichick for a favor: Let me play the entire preseason game against the Giants. There was Lynch, out there with free agents, rookies and no-names, running wild one last time on an NFL field.
"If you look at the stat sheet, I had like 14 tackles," Lynch said. "I was like Junior Seau. They'd tell me it was zone coverage — and I would blitz. Belichick was screaming, 'What the hell are you doing?' I came off one time and I gave him a hug. He finally just cracked a huge smile. I was out there just balling. I got a guy good, too. Rodney Harrison said it was one of his favorite hits. A guy caught like a little boot across the middle and I hit him and the guy went into our bench. I got some licks in."
John Terrence Lynch. And how.