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Lynch calls for unity in Hall of Fame induction speech

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John Lynch

CANTON, Ohio -- John Lynch delivered his speech Sunday night upon induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021.

Lynch, currently the 49ers' general manager, was selected to nine Pro Bowls during his 15-year playing career as a hard-hitting safety with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos.

RELATED: Lynch credits Walsh in HOF speech

Here are the words he delivered in his 8 1/2 minutes at the lectern following his presenters, son Jake Lynch, and Herm Edwards:

Thank you, Jake. Such an honor to have you as my presenter. Thank you, Herm. 

What a humbling honor. First, let me say, nothing about my Hall of Fame journey has been easy. I waited eight years as a finalist and then David Baker tells me I’m following Peyton Manning. Thanks a lot, David.

Peyton and the rest of our 2021 Class, congratulations. What a privilege to be inducted into this brotherhood -- the Pro Football Hall of Fame — with all of you.

As everyone up here will attest, it takes a lot of belief to get to this stage. However, belief is not something that simply happens. It has to be nurtured, a million times over.  A note, a pat on the back, a piece of advice, coaching . . . these are the things that foster belief in ourselves. Today, I will recognize those who have done this for me. 

I would not be here today if not for one person — my wife and my best friend — Linda Lynch. I met Linda in the seventh grade in our hometown of San Diego. Linda, you have inspired me as a man, a father, a husband and a leader. For 15 years as an NFL player and nine years with the NFL on FOX, Linda wrote a note to me that I read before 

 

every single game. She didn’t ever miss one. Her notes always calmed me, focused me and drove me to be my best self. Babe, I love you more than you will ever know, and I’m so thankful to share this life-changing moment with you.

Our four amazing children: Jake, Lindsay, Lilly and Leah . . . each one of you in your own special way has provided me inspiration that cannot be described even with the full definition of love. My pride in each of you is endless. I hope that I have helped you grow your belief in yourself the way you have for me.

My parents, John and Cathy, your standards and expectations were always high — your love always unconditional. The Catholic faith that you instilled in me and blessed me with is my guiding light. Where would I be without it? Where would I be without both of you? Mom and Dad, I am truly grateful and I love you. 

My sister and brother, Kara and Ryan, you have always supported me. Please know where you live in my heart.

I went to Stanford University as a quarterback and a baseball player. After two years as the No. 2 quarterback, I was tired of that. 

I decided that the best way for me to get on the football field was to convert to safety. I want to thank the late, great Denny Green for guiding me through this life-altering decision.

Later that year, I was drafted in the second round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Florida Marlins and believed that baseball was going to be my future. Enter the late great, Bill Walsh.

Coach Walsh had returned to Stanford as our head coach in 1992, when Coach Green accepted the head job for the Minnesota Vikings. One day I received a call from Bill.**

“Hey, John, this is Bill Walsh. I’ve been studying our defense from last year, and John, you were our best defensive player.”

Shocked, I said to him, “Coach Walsh, with all due respect, I played safety for one year and only played half the snaps. How can you possibly arrive at that opinion?”

He said, simply, “The film. I watched it and you can be a Pro Bowl safety in the NFL.”

When I returned to school, in true Bill Walsh fashion, he not only told me, he showed me. He showed a tape of me making a play, then a play of perhaps the greatest safety of all time, Ronnie Lott, making a similar play. There were only five plays on that tape, but after watching it, 

 

I was all in. 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.

Pete Egoscue, you were more than just someone to train me. You taught me how to outwork my competition. That gave me my mental and physical edge.

There were many other coaches who were indispensable to my success: Monte Kiffin, Jon Gruden, Rod Marinelli and Mike Tomlin among them.

One special human being who saw something in me before I saw it in myself is my co-presenter Herm Edwards. Herm had a vision for the way I should play the safety position. He encouraged me to play with the passion, joy, physicality and instincts that defined my game. Herm, you were the also first to tell me that I could have a bust in Canton someday, but only if I believed it. We’re here, Herm.

Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy had such a profound impact on me on and off the field. This is a true story: In his first team meeting as head coach of the Buccaneers he said to us, “Our job is to win championships here in Tampa, but if that’s all that we do, we will not have done enough.” He went on to talk about responsibility we have to give back to our community. Tony, thank you for being the man that you are.

A sincere thank you to the Glazer family and everyone at the Buccaneers for making my first eleven years in the NFL so meaningful and helping us bring a world championship to Tampa with Super Bowl 37.

To the late great owner, Pat Bowlen, a true Hall of Famer, to the Bowlen family, Mike Shanahan and everybody at the Denver Broncos: Thanks for giving me such a great landing spot to play the final four years of my career.

Now, over the last four seasons, I’ve had the honor to serve as the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers. Thank you to Kyle Shanahan, to Jed York, and the entire York family for having the faith in me that you do.

Ronde Barber, your time is coming, man. You’re going to be here. Mike Alstott, Champ Bailey, Rod Smith — these are just a few of the great players that I was blessed to call teammates. There are so many to acknowledge, two guys back here (Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp) had my back from day one. Together we forged an unbreakable bond. and I’m overjoyed to join you two in Canton!**

Before concluding, I want to state: The National Football League is the greatest metaphor for life that I have ever known. It challenges each and every one of us who plays this great game in every way possible. Everything about the game is hard. It tests your will. It compels every man who puts on a uniform to not only to do their best but to be their best. In football, we quickly discover that we’re only as strong as our weakest link. If we are 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 our background. All that 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. Let us find the common ground through our shared values. Let’s celebrate and learn from our differences. Derrick Brooks from Pensacola, Florida. Warren Sapp from Apopka, Florida. And John Lynch from Solana Beach, California, have. So, too, can all of you. 

Thank you David Baker, to Ira Kaufman and the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee, my beautiful family, dear friends, coaches, teammates, and all of the fans,  I love you.

As my journey illustrates, one person can make a difference. I encourage each and every one of you to be that person, who provides someone else with a belief that they, too, can be great!

May God bless you all. Thank you.

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