There’s probably more than a few NFL wide receivers and running backs who wish that Bill Walsh had never met John Lynch. Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans, however, were glad the two crossed paths in the early months of 1992 when Walsh returned to The Farm for a second stint as head coach.
By 1992, Lynch had a pretty solid minor-league career. He threw the first pitch in the history of the Florida Marlins’ organization — for the Class A Erie Sailors on June 15, 1992 — and was on a path that could have taken him into the major leagues in the near future, perhaps by the September call-ups in 1993.
But Walsh convinced Lynch — who’d only moved from quarterback to safety months earlier — to return for his senior season and eventually eschew baseball for football.
“And who knows if I would have made it in baseball?” Lynch asked.
Lynch joined tight end Nate Jackson in attending Walsh’s memorial service Thursday and came away amazed by the breadth of Walsh’s influence on his sport and the entire city of San Francisco. As U.S. Senator and former mayor Dianne Feinstein noted, the city was reeling from assassinations, the death of many locals at Jonestown, Guyana and the looming spectre of a still-unnamed virus that, at that moment, had a mortality rate of 100 percent. The team, which went 2-14 the year before Walsh’s hiring and in his first year on the sidelines seemed to reflect the chaos and despair of the city surrounding it.
In a small way, Walsh’s intellectual creativity helped the 49ers become a symbol of pride for a city that desperately needed it.
“That’s why I feel so strongly that the Niners are part of San Francisco history,” Feinstein said during the service. “He brought a city together.”
It was that kind of contribution that illumated Walsh’s legacy even further to Lynch, who was just eight years old when Walsh took the 49ers’ reins.
“San Francisco was kind of reeling, and they talked about how the Niners brought the city back and made everyone believe in what the city could be.
“(The service) was pretty incredible — and it should have been, for his contributions to the NFL and the city.”
Lynch is just one walking example of Walsh’s influence on a smaller, more individualistic scale.
Without Walsh, the Bucs might not have found a leader who helped point the franchise out of a 14-season darkness and into a six-season run that included five playoff appearances, two division titles and a world championship. The Broncos might not have been able to put together a secondary that surrounds Lynch with a pair of Pro Bowl cornerbacks and another savvy veteran at strong safety in Nick Ferguson.
Of course, Lynch might still have gotten that world championship ring, since the Florida Marlins did win the World Series in 1997. But his life might nonetheless be unrecognizable, seeing as way leads on to way, as Robert Frost put it.
And Lynch’s life is just one of hundreds that Walsh altered. Players, coaches, interns in the NFL’s minority coaching fellowship — so many in the sport and beyond might not be in their current places in life without the white-haired gentleman who examined pro football paradigms and asked, “Why not do it a different way?”
“Everybody knows that Bill Walsh was a football genius, but he was a genius in so many ways,” Lynch said. “He had a knack for uncovering hidden potential, which really spoke to me, because it’s what he did with me.”
And 15 years after their meeting, Lynch remains in the NFL, and was on the practice field Friday afternoon.
Heck, I could start a blog detailing Walsh’s influence on people in the sport and beyond, focus on a different individual each day, and have daily entries for years. That’s the depth of Walsh’s influence. That is just the beginning of his legacy.
I have no graceful way to transition into what’s next, so here goes … practice notes:
ATTENDANCE REPORT: Lynch took part in the afternoon work after sitting out the morning session … Gerard Warren sat out both practices Friday … Travis Henry, Andre Hall, Tom Nalen, Champ Bailey, Nick Ferguson, Ebenezer Ekuban, Stephen Alexander, Sam Adams, Jacob Rogers and Brandon Stokley were held out after being in uniform Friday morning … Matt Lepsis was in uniform, but watched the session from the sidelines … Ben Hamilton, Marquay McDaniel, Glenn Martinez, Hamza Abdullah, Warrick Holdman, Ryan Harris and Rod Smith sat out both sessions.
WHO’S WHERE: Domonique Foxworth handled safety duties alongside Lynch … Karl Paymah worked with the first team at cornerback … D.D. Lewis handled first-team strongside linebacking duties … With Warren and Adams watching from the sideliens, Amon Gordon saw some first-team work at defensive tackle alongside Jimmy Kennedy. The first-team ends in the base 4-3 package were John Engelberger and Elvis Dumervil … Erik Pears worked at left tackle with the first team; Adam Meadows manned the right side. Chris Myers, Greg Eslinger and Montrae Holland also worked with the first team.
STANDOUT PLAYS: Straight from the Broncos’ wheelhouse — a bootleg by Jay Cutler that allowed him to find Brian Clark wide open downfield for a big gain … Mike Leach used good concentration to catch a pass from Patrick Ramsey that Kenny Peterson deflected … Troy Fleming saw additional time in the backfield, lining up behind fullback Paul Smith in one formation … Domenik Hixon had arguably the catch of the day, leaping for a pass thrown by Darrell Hackney near the sideline.
That’s it for today. Vaya con Dios until tomorrow.
Tags: Training Camp