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49ers GM Lynch receives knock to enter Pro Football Hall of Fame

NBC Sports

John Lynch, a man known for delivering more than his share of knocks on the football field, was on the receiving end this time.

It knocked him to his knees -- in the best imaginable way.

David Baker, the president of the Hall of Fame, was shown on video performing his trademark knock on Lynch’s door. Baker delivered the much-anticipated news that Lynch now has a permanent place in football history — and in Canton, Ohio - among the all-time greats to impact the sport.

Lynch, an eight-time finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was announced Saturday as a member of the Class of 2021. In a video that captured the moment he was informed of his election, Lynch was overcome with emotion, bending over and grabbing his knees.

Lynch’s election into the Hall of Fame was revealed during NFL Honors, the annual awards show held on the eve of the Super Bowl. The Class of 2021 is scheduled to be formally enshrined in Canton on Sunday, Aug. 8.

A decade before Lynch became the 49ers’ general manager in 2017, he was a versatile, hard-hitting NFL safety.

He played college ball at Stanford before entering the league as a third-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1993. A year earlier, he was the No. 66 overall draft pick of the Florida Marlins as a right-handed pitcher. After two seasons in baseball's minor leagues, Lynch turned all of his attention to football.

Over the course of his 15-year NFL career — 11 with Tampa Bay and four with the Denver Broncos — Lynch was a nine-time Pro Bowl performer and four-time All-Pro. He is recognized in the rings of honor for both franchises.

 

“John Lynch didn’t just play the position,” Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders once said, “he occupied a spot in your mind.”

Lynch was a member of the Buccaneers’ first and, right now, only Super Bowl champion.

Coincidentally, the Super Bowl on Sunday is in Tampa, Florida, where the Buccaneers will play the Kansas City Chiefs.

Lynch’s head coach for six seasons in Tampa Bay was Tony Dungy, who was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 2016. Dungy, an analyst for NBC Sports, served his first year on the Hall of Fame’s 48-person selection committee. He said he spoke in support of his former player during the recent meeting, which lasted nearly nine hours.

“His was the most-difficult position to find and the most-difficult position to play in our defense because you’re asked to do so many things,” Dungy told NBC Sports Bay Area this week.

Dungy said Lynch was entrusted to line up at every level of the defense to face unique challenges that tested his skillset against the players he matched up against.

“You’re asked to play at the line of scrimmage like a linebacker and be able to make tackles on big backs like Jerome Bettis," Dungy said. "You had to be an open-field tackler and be able to get Barry Sanders down in the open field. You had to cover man-to-man on tight ends, guys like Shannon Sharpe, who’s in the Hall of Fame.

“And we asked him to play in the deep half or deep third and play center field and make plays. It’s very rare to find a guy who can do all of that, and John did it very well — not just for two years or five years or eight years but for over a decade of playing at a Pro Bowl level.”

Lynch was a key contributor of four defenses that ranked in the top three in the NFL in total defense, passing defense and scoring defense.

He is one of just three career-long NFL safeties to register 1,000 tackles, 25 interceptions, 15 forced fumbles and 10 sacks.

Nicknamed “The Closer” by former Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, Lynch was known for making big plays in key moments. Of his 26 career interceptions, 21 of them occurred in victories, and 11 came in the fourth quarter of games with a margin of seven points or fewer.

Selection into the Hall of Fame did not come without a lot of waiting. Since 2010, Lynch and former Buffalo wide receiver Andre Reed are the only individuals named as finalists as many as eight times. Reed was enshrined in his eighth year as a finalist in 2014.

Dungy said he believes that Hall of Famers have a standard they must meet off the field, too. And Lynch checks all those boxes, as well.

“He basically had a great career in Tampa, moved to Denver and had another great career,” Dungy said. “You go in the ring of honor with two different franchises, that speaks a lot about you.”

 
RELATED: Sherman ranks what he believes are Lynch's top priorities as GM

Lynch's unifying role on the teams for which he played has enabled him to find success in his football life after a player, too.

After serving eight seasons as a Fox TV analyst on NFL games, he was hired to join Kyle Shanahan's new regime with the 49ers. Lynch was named NFL Executive of the Year in 2019, as the 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl in just his third season with the club.

Editor’s note: Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors.

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