Michael Lynche was a football player before he became a nationally-known R&B singer via American Idol, but he has nursed both passions since his days at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, Florida.
On Sunday, he'll combine those two loves for the benefit of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faithful at Raymond James Stadium. Lynche, also known as "Big Mike," will sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the Buccaneers take on the Cleveland Browns in the 2010 season opener.
Big Mike rose to prominence this past spring when he advanced deep into the ninth season of the ultra-popular American Idol contest on Fox. Lynche earned his spot in Hollywood with a strong audition in Orlando in January and eventually joined Lee DeWyze, Crystal Bowersox and Casey James in the final four. DeWyze eventually won the season, beating Bowersox in the finale.
Lynche was a popular contestant during his run on the show, even earning a "save" by the panel of judges after the field had been narrowed to nine singers. He remained in the contest despite learning during "Hollywood Week" that his wife, Christa, had given birth to his daughter, Laila Rose. Along the way, Lynche performed such hits as "This Love" by Maroon 5, "When a Man Loves a Woman" by Percy Sledge and "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles. His successful audition number was "Unchained Melody" by Todd Duncan.
As a result of finishing in Idol's top 10 in Season Nine, Big Mike was a part of the American Idol LIVE! tour this past summer. He performed three solo songs, including "My Love" by Justin Timberlake, plus a duet with James during the show.
At Gibbs, which is also the alma mater of former Buccaneers quarterback Shaun King, Lynche excelled on both the gridiron and in the school's Pinellas County Center for the Arts. He furthered his football career at the University of Central Florida, playing defensive tackle for two seasons before dropping out to take care of his ailing mother in 2003.
On Sunday, Lynche will perform the national anthem shortly before kickoff, which is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET. The Buccaneers' pregame entertainment will also feature several elements of the team's "Military Appreciation" efforts, including parachute jumps into the stadium by SOCOM para-commandos and a flyover by F-16s from the Eglin Air Force Base.