Championship Sunday has always been special for John Lynch, but in 2021 it became even more exceptional.
On January 24, as his family prepared to watch the Green Bay Packers face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game, Lynch reluctantly got out of his seat and answered his front door to find David Baker, towering in his entryway.
After being a top-15 modern era finalist the past seven consecutive years, waiting for the formidable knock on his hotel room door, the last person Lynch expected to greet at his San Diego home was the 6-foot-9 CEO and President of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
With utter surprise, the 49ers' general manager received the news that he will finally be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It wasn’t a sure thing for the former Buccaneer and Denver Bronco who spent 15 years in the league. Two All-Pro nods and nine Pro Bowl seasons hadn’t been enough for Lynch to have his bronze likeness to be housed in Canton, Ohio for eternity.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20.
It started off as a standard Sunday— mass with his family, his wife Linda's family and a gathering the Lynch home to follow. For a player who relied on his instincts during his lengthy NFL career, there were clues that should have indicated to the retired safety that something was afoot.
“Looking back there were a few signs, Linda was acting a little strange, buying a bunch of new plants for our house when we were heading north for a bit,” Lynch said during a conference call via the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I didn’t quite get that, but I just thought we were entertaining. She’s a perfectionist and she wanted things right, I just kind of went with it.
“I heard this loud knock and that was the first time I had an inkling something was wrong because I told one of the kids — I had my seat ready to watch the games and heard this loud knock — and I told my youngest daughter Leah, ‘Could you go get that?’ And she said ‘No, dad, you have to go get the door.’
“And then as I went to the door, everyone followed me. It just kept getting stranger, so I was like something is going on, but I was obviously floored.”
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Lynch gave kudos to the Hall of Fame selection committee’s process, keeping everything said in their meetings “sacred.” Most years he had no idea if he would be receiving a knock from Baker with the news or not, but there was one previous year as a finalist where he thought it was nearly a done deal. He has since learned to not take anything he hears regarding enshrinement as the gospel.
One challenging aspect about Lynch’s eight-year journey to receiving a gold jacket was having no control, or even influence on the decision-making process. It was a departure from every other detail of his professional life.
“It’s a strange thing as a competitor,” Lynch said. “There’s a strange dynamic to it because I think everything you’re involved in, you feel like you have some say in the matter. You go compete for something. You can’t compete for this. The resume is what you put forth, what I did for 15 years, by the time it gets to the voters it’s not like you can go have one more performance to convince them.”
While Lynch shared that the way that he was told of his impending enshrinement was unconventional, it couldn’t have been any better, being surrounded by his entire family and close friends.
“I really do believe things happen when they are supposed to.”
The enshrinement ceremonies for the 2021 class will be held in Canton, Ohio on August 8th, at 4 p.m. PT.
The celebration begins with the Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers, kicking off on August 5th at 5:00 p.m. PST.