CANTON, Ohio — Before every game during his 15-year NFL career and during his nine years as a broadcaster, John Lynch said his wife, Linda, would provide him with a handwritten note offering encouragement, focus and belief.
“As everyone up here can attest, it takes a lot of belief to get up here on this stage,” Lynch said during his induction speech Sunday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which came after eight years of being a finalist. “However, belief is not something that simply happens. It has to be nurtured a million times over. A note. A pat on the back. Coaching. A piece of advice. These are the things that foster belief in ourselves. Tonight I will recognize those who did this for me.”
Lynch did just that, acknowledging those who fostered his confidence from a converted quarterback and baseball pitcher at Stanford to one of the best safeties in NFL history who led the Bucs to a Super Bowl 37 victory.
⋅ Former Vikings coach Dennis Green and Stanford coach Bill Walsh. The former, who coached defense at Stanford when Lynch was there, convinced Lynch to move from quarterback to safety. The latter convinced Lynch to just stick with football after he was drafted in the second round by the Florida Marlins. “Coach Walsh, you gave me the confidence to follow my heart to an NFL career. Without you, I’m not standing on this stage today.”
⋅ Former Bucs defensive backs coach Herm Edwards. The current Arizona State coach, who also helped introduce Lynch on Sunday night, encouraged him to play safety “with the passion, the joy, the physicality and instincts that define my game.”
⋅ Former Bucs coach and Hall of Famer Tony Dungy, who stressed community involvement just as much as wins. “In his first meeting as the head coach of the Buccaneers, he said to us: Our first job is to win championships here in Tampa, but if that’s all we do, we will not have done enough.”
Lynch was drafted in the third round by the Bucs in 1993. Two years later he was joined on that defense by Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, who preceded Lynch into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as first-ballot selections. But Lynch and the Bucs didn’t begin to turn the franchise around until the arrival of Dungy in 1996.
Lynch, 49, capped off a week celebrating a career that included nine Pro Bowl appearances with the Bucs and Broncos, as well as a Super Bowl title with Tampa Bay, as one of the league’s hardest-hitting safeties.
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The 49ers general manager is in the middle of an important evaluation of the quarterback position between Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Trey Lance. He didn’t want to miss training camp but was convinced to arrive by Thursday. After receiving his gold jacket at a ceremony Friday night, Lynch took part in the parade Saturday morning.
All three teams Lynch is affiliated with — the Bucs, Broncos and 49ers — were represented at a party for him Saturday night at the historic Onesto Event Center.
Lionel Richie was the surprise musical guest and the celebration lasted “all night long.” And the singer met the man of the hour.
“You know, John, you have survived the impossible,” Richie told Lynch. “A player and now the inductee. How you do feel, my friend?”
“I feel easy like Sunday morning,” Lynch responded.
And on Sunday night, Lynch concluded his induction speech by saying society could learn from the game of football.
“Everything about the game is hard and tests your will,” Lynch said. “It compels every man who puts on a uniform to not only do their best but to be their best.
“In football, we quickly discover that we’re only as strong as our weakest link. And if we’re to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves we must all learn to play together and pull together. Each of us comes from a different walk of life, but when we huddle up, we huddle up as a team. It doesn’t matter where we come from or your background, all the matters is the fulfillment of one goal: Victory.
“Tonight I advocate that we take the lead of football and huddle up as a people, as a great nation, and find the common ground through our shared values. Let’s celebrate and learn from our differences. Derrick Brooks from Pensacola, FL; Warren Sapp from Apopka, FL; and John Lynch from Solana Beach, Calif., (all) have. So, too, can all of you.”
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