From Torrey Pines to the Hall of Fame: Lynch reflects on NFL journey ahead of enshrinement

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SAN DIEGO – The Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomes 28 new members this weekend as they enshrine the classes of 2020 and 2021.

Included in Sunday’s ceremony is Torrey Pines High School graduate John Lynch, who finally got the call in his eighth year as a finalist. Lynch played 15 seasons in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos, landing on nine Pro Bowl teams and twice being selected as an All-Pro in his career as a hard-hitting safety known to play with little regard for his body.

In the modern NFL, Lynch’s style potentially would draw thousands of dollars in fines and possibly suspensions.

But when he played from 1993 to 2007, receivers feared him and opponents and teammates respected him.

Lynch, now the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, told FOX 5 he thought this day might never come.

“The numbers kind of dictate if you’ve been a finalist this many times — I forget what it was — that it’s going to happen and that it’s not a matter of if, but when,” he said. “I really kept that faith. There were some discouraging moments.”

He adds: “It was last year or two years ago where it had been communicated to me, ‘Hey it looks like it’s happening this year.’ That was the one year it was like, ‘Alright.’ When I got the phone call as opposed to the knock, it stung, but I think I always kept perspective. I knew what I did on the field and I was very proud of it.”

It ended up being a conversation with legendary Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Lynn Swann, whom he’d never previously met, that eased his mind. Swann was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001 after being a finalist 14 times.

“He came and said, ‘Hey, I heard it didn’t happen today, but tell me how many times I was a finalist'” Lynch said. “I said, ‘I don’t know, but I know you’re a Hall of Famer.’ He said, ‘Exactly. I was a finalist 14 times’ and he goes, ‘No one remembers that when you’re in.’ That always stuck with me.

“Some of our San Diego connections: Terrell Davis, Marcus Allen, Junior (Seau) way back in the day when we were workout partners and he talked about us being in Canton together. Marcus and Terrell with nice calls and texts like, ‘Hey, you’re gonna get there. Trust the process,” and that’s what I tried to do.”

The attention now turns to the actual induction. Lynch enters Canton with a star-studded 2021 class, including Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson and Charles Woodson, among others.

02 Dec 2001 : John Lynch #47 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is congratulated by teammate Warren Sapp #99 , after recovering a fumble , which set up the winning field goal against the Cincinnati Bengals during the game at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Buccaneers beat the Bengals 16 – 13. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Elsa/Allsport

Lynch said he’s given plenty of thought to what he will say in his induction speech.

“Sometimes you have these great thoughts and then that night you can’t remember,” he said. “What I’m doing is when I have a moment or something really good comes to me, or someone says ‘Hey, congratulations’ and you think of something, I’m trying to write it down and I think that will serve me well. It’s filled with gratitude of all the people who played a role in my success as an athlete.

“When I finished playing, it was on to broadcasting and from broadcasting now I’m doing this career. You don’t spend a lot of time reflecting back on, ‘I was able to do some pretty cool things.’ This has been an occasion.”

Lynch will honored Sunday with the rest of the 2021 class in a ceremony airing at 4 p.m. PST on NFL Network and ESPN. The 2020/Centennial Class will be enshrined on Saturday starting at 3:30 p.m. PST, also on NFL Network and ESPN.

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