When John Lynch retired from the National Football League in 2008, he came back to Tampa to make the formal announcement. It was his first and true NFL home, where he spent 11 of his 15 seasons before an outstanding four-year coda in Denver.
Lynch purposely represented both the Bucs and the Broncos when he retired and shared memories of both portions of his career. For the Buccaneers, however, having Lynch in their house for the announcement was an opportunity to reflect on the enormous impact he had on the franchise.
FEATURE: JOHN LYNCH: A CASE FOR CANTON
"In John Lynch," said Buccaneers Co-Chairman Joel Glazer at the time, "we had Hall of Fame character, we had Hall of Fame dedication, we had Hall of Fame involvement in the community, and week-in and week-out you saw Hall of Fame play on the field."
Now the Buccaneers will give their fans a chance to reminisce about John Lynch's glory days, and to remember his exploits every time they attend a home game. At a Friday press conference in the same One Buccaneer Place auditorium that held that retirement ceremony, Lynch was introduced as the next person to be inducted into the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium.
Lynch's name and iconic #47 will be added to the stadium façade during halftime of a game in the 2016 season; the date will be determined after the schedule is released this spring. Lynch will become the ninth person to join the Ring, following Lee Roy Selmon, John McKay, Jimmie Giles, Paul Gruber, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott and Doug Williams.
Lynch was one of the greatest figures in Buccaneer franchise history, one of the most memorable players of his generation and one of the most impactful safeties in league annals. All of that is evidenced by the fact that he is currently a Hall of Fame finalist for the third year in a row. On February 6, Lynch will find out if he becomes the fourth player in the Hall who played all or most of his career as a Buccaneer.
The best photos of safety John Lynch.
Lynch would join recent inductees Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp – along with first Buc Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon – in Canton if he is named to the Class of 2016. It was originally Brooks and Sapp who joined Lynch in Tampa, however, as the latter was a third-round draft pick in 1993 and the former two came aboard two years later. Those three quickly became known as "The Big Three" around which a new winning era was built in Tampa after years of struggles.
Lynch, Brooks and Sapp famously huddled in a San Diego hotel room in 1996, after hearing the team referred to as "the Yucks," and vowed to turn it around. Tampa Bay won the next afternoon against the Chargers, finished strong in '96 and then won their first five in '97 en route to breaking a 15-year playoff drought. Those same three remained at the team's core – along with Ronde Barber and some other notable additions – five years later when the Buccaneers won their first Super Bowl championship.
As would eventually be clear, Lynch and his core teammates were superstar-caliber players, but they also demonstrated a force of will that led to the franchise's turnaround on the field.
"I think first of all we believed what we talked about," said Lynch in '08. "It was hard to believe because we had lost for a long time and we had things where it didn't matter what we did something would go wrong and we needed to change that culture and we did. We obviously drafted great players with great talent but I think it was much more than that; it was a mindset, a mental toughness that we kind of acquired."
Lynch's name is all over the Buccaneers' record books. He ranks fifth in games played (164), sixth in games started (132), fifth in tackles (973) and sixth in interceptions (23). He even gained 40 yards on his only career carry and once kicked off after an injury knocked Martin Gramatica out of a game.
Lynch also made it to five Pro Bowls as a Buccaneer; the only players with more in team history are all in the Ring of Honor: Brooks (11), Sapp (7), Alstott (6) and Selmon (6). Lynch made another four Pro Bowls as a Bronco, giving him nine total. That's tied for the second-most number of Pro Bowls in league history among players who played their entire career at safety. Only Hall of Famer Ken Houston, with 12, made more all-star games.
In fact, as noted in Buccaneers.com's case for Lynch as a Hall of Famer, Lynch is one of only two players whose careers began in the Super Bowl era who have nine Pro Bowl selections and are eligible for the Hall but are not yet in. He is the only player with nine Pro Bowl bids, two first-team Associated Press all-pro honors and a Super Bowl ring who is not yet enshrined in Canton.
Again, all of that and more is noted in Lynch's case for Canton, and that decision will be made by the Hall of Fame selection committee in a little over two weeks. What is not in dispute is that John Lynch is one of the most accomplished and popular players in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history. It is only natural, then, that his name and number join those of the greatest Buccaneers ever when he is inducted into the team's Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium next fall.