John Lynch played strong safety for fifteen seasons in the NFL. He played college football at Stanford University and entered the NFL in 1993. Lynch made it to the Pro Bowl nine times and won a Super Bowl when he played on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII. He also played for the Denver Broncos.
You can now see him on FOX Sports covering NFL games as a color commentator. Besides football Lynch and his wife started up the John Lynch Foundation back in 2000. Their foundation is committed to developing leaders by encouraging dreams, providing programs that assist and motivate, and recognizing achievement and excellence.
I spoke with John about which teams he thinks will make it to the Super Bowl, his playing days, fatherhood, and his foundation.
Art Eddy: You do an outstanding job on FOX covering the NFL. You covered the Seahawks and Colts game earlier this year. Both teams are doing well so far this year. Out of the two teams who has a better chance of getting to the Super Bowl?
John Lynch: With that questions I think that it is the Seahawks. I think that the Seahawks have a one of the deepest rosters in football. They have a tremendous home field advantage in Seattle. I see them as a team that is going to continue to get more and more healthy. They were missing three offensive linemen that are Pro Bowl type players. They were missing Zach Miller. Percy Harvin is coming back. I just think that team with the depth of their roster is a good as any in the league. It is a team that is going to get stronger as the season goes on.
Indy is a fine team. They won the game. It was a fine win for them. Andrew Luck just put that organization on his shoulders. It is like he said, ‘Come follow me.’ It is pretty special.
AE: Which team in the NFL is the overall top team in your opinion? Would it be maybe one of your former teams, the Denver Broncos?
JL: Yeah, I think so. From the start of the year I had Denver number one, Seattle at number two. I still feel like that. Denver, the depth of their roster is incredible as well as what John Elway has done out there. In a very short time he built a very, very thorough roster that can beat you in a number of ways. Then of course they got Peyton Manning.
Living in Denver I know a lot of people were worried that he was another year older, but what I can tell you is that he is another year healthier. Remember that he is a guy that underwent four neck surgeries. He had 37 touchdowns last year. His start to this year has just been unbelievable. I think you can contribute that to a number of things. Number one, his health. He is feeling better. Number two, you go get a guy like Wes Welker, the emergence of a guy like Julius Thomas at tight end, and it just creates that true pick your poison mentality. Who are you going to stop? You can’t stop them all. It is a great roster.
AE: With all the adjustments that the NFL has made to make the game safer, what are your thoughts as a former safety?
JL: First of all I do appreciate that we have a commissioner. With Commissioner Goodell, where I have spent a lot of time talking to him on this issue, really genuinely cares. This is not just a PR stunt. He genuinely cares about the welfare of its players. He is doing everything he can to make the game safer.
In saying that I feel at times they go too far. They teach from the grassroots up with the Heads Up program that they are teaching to youth football. When they got guys who do it perfectly, they are still getting fined sometimes. What bothers me is that it is sometime based on the physicality of the hit. I look at a guy like Dashon Goldson down in Tampa. He is an excellent player. He just has a knack for hitting people harder than anyone else in the league. He is getting fined as a result on a play that isn’t dirty. They are just very physically and very impactful.
That’s why I think it crosses the line at some point. People know what they signed up for when they play this sport. Is it a dangerous game? Yes. Should we try make it safer? Absolutely, but I don’t think you can cross the line where it isn’t football anymore.
AE: Going back to your playing days in the NFL. You played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Denver Broncos. You won a Super Bowl while playing for Tampa Bay. From start to finish what are your memories of that game?
JL: I have talked to so many players that have won a Super Bowl. I think what I really look back on is more so the journey of that team than the game itself. What I do remember about the game is that it was the classic scenario. It was the number one offense in the Raiders with Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown and all of those guys verse the number one defense.
I think we had one of the best defensive units of all time. Everybody naturally gave the advantage to the offense. We were extremely confident that as soon as we beat Philadelphia and we knew that the Raiders were our matchup. In our mind we won the Super Bowl. We just felt very confident that we had what it took and we did.
On top of that I got to do it in my hometown where I grew up in San Diego. I had my family there. Those are some of the memories after the game to have my son down there with me, my wife, my parents, and my grandparents. It was really was a special day.
AE: What will you always take with you from your time playing in the NFL?
JL: People usually say the relationships, which is true, but what I found out is that those relationships still hold true today. I am still great friends with Ronde Barber. I still see him on a regular basis. Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott, Brad Johnson, and all those guys are still in touch. Those relationships don’t go anywhere.
What I miss and I think other players miss is the all-out competition each and every day. What you have done in the past does not matter. It matters what you do that day. Whether you are a rookie or if you are in your fifteenth year it is a constant proving ground. You have to go every day and try to be better than you were a day before. I loved that challenge. It is playing against the best players in the world and also you are competing against yourself. You are trying each day to figure out how you can get an edge because you are playing against the best. That is what great players do.
AE: Who was the hardest quarterback to game plan for?
JL: Oh there is no question. It is the guy that is lighting up the league right now. It is Peyton Manning. I had the opportunity to play against some of the greatest of all time. John Elway, who is a great friend now, was a terrific player and one of the best of all time. (Joe) Montana was one of the greats of all time as well.
For me there was no one tougher to play against than Peyton Manning. It was what he did above the neck. It wasn’t the skill set, which he had a fine one of those. It was the fact that he was always one step ahead of you and one step ahead of the defense. It was his preparation and execution on the field that made him darn near impossible to ever stop him. He was always one of my favorite guys to compete against because I talked about that competition. That’s what it was every time you tried to play against him. You tried to find a way to beat him and it was awfully tough.
AE: You started a foundation back in 2000. Tell me a bit about your foundation and what made you create the foundation?
JL: I was really fortunate Art that I was raised by parents that taught me at a young age. The way that they taught me was showing me that is was not just a nice thing to do, but a responsibility to each and every one to give back to their community. My parents were always very involved in their community whether it be at the school or at the church.
All those things that they did on a regular basis was to show the importance of giving back. I was raised with that and then I get to the NFL. I had great mentors in guys like Hardy Nickerson and Paul Gruber, who were veterans at Tampa at that time. These guys were doing great things in the community.
My wife, Linda and I saw that you have an unbelievable opportunity to make great things happen in your community and make a difference in people’s lives. We set out to find something that really embodied what we were all about. We came out with our foundation, which has a focus on recognizing and rewarding quality young leaders. That was what we have been able to do through our programs and our scholarships. We have given to these kids that excel in the classroom, in sports, and in their community. It has really been a blessing.
AE: What type of events do you guys do annually?
JL: We have a luncheon that happens every year in May. We have has some tremendous keynote speakers. We have had Jon Gruden and General Tommy Franks. It is less about them and more about the kids that we have the great honor to recognize, reward, and shine a light on them. We do it on Invesco Field at Denver.
We put anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 people on the field to basically say great job to these kids. We give our scholarships out to the kids and to disabled student athletes as well that have excelled in the same capacity. They are incredible kids and it is an incredible day.
AE: As a father what are some of the main values that you want to instill in your children?
JL: It is not why we do it, but it is a tremendous by-product is that our kids have seen it. It has been modeled right in front of them. They are always helping us pass out awards. They are helping us set up for events. They get to see tremendous role models in these kids that is what is right with our youth.
Kids are going above and beyond not just in classrooms, but also in the community. Our kids see these well rounded kids when they are with us at these events. They get to see the tremendous honor of what it feels like to give back to people. Our kids really enjoy that.
AE: Each generation says that the next one always grows up way too fast. What is your take on that and what are some of the biggest challenges you think your children will face?
JL: I think one of the biggest challenges is that when you live a very public life where there is fame and fortune, how do you instill values? The values of hard work and how your kids will need to know that you just don’t snap your fingers and have great opportunities in life. You got to work for everything you get. Is it doable? Absolutely. Is it a challenge? Absolutely.
Technology is another. The world that these kids grow up in with 24 hour news cycles, Twitter, Instagram and all that stuff. Just give them a good childhood where they are outside and they are active. They are appreciating the things that my wife and I enjoyed as kids. I think so many people are missing out on that because they have their heads in their phones. We are outside and we are active. It has been really cool that our kids don’t really want to get into that tech world. They know how much fun you can have going skiing, going to the beach, or playing a family football game. That has been a real joy for us.
AE: What advice would you give to new fathers?
JL: As soon as you are a father you will see that it is the greatest thing that you will be involved in. I really feel that. It is truly a blessing. Don’t ever underestimate the responsibility that it is. I remember my father in law saying to me that I will be a father every day for the rest of my life. Take it seriously. It is not your words. It is your actions.
It is what you model. Whether it is with my girls showing them how a woman should be treated by the way I treat their mother. With my son to instill in him how to treat a woman by the way I treat my wife and how I interact with my daughters. I take a lot of pride in that. I know what a tremendous responsibility it is. I know that I am not perfect at it. I work really hard at it. It is the most fun I ever had. I think it is the coolest thing in the world. We have four. I would have 20, if we could. (Laughs.)