Derrick Brooks and John Lynch won the 2002 NFC title and Super Bowl XXXVII together, and the former believes the latter belongs in the Hall of Fame
Indianapolis Colts safety Bob Sanders made the Pro Bowl in only his second season in the NFL, in 2005, and was the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year just two seasons later. He is obviously one of the league's top talents and is likely destined for a long and productive playing career.
But Sanders isn't taken that destiny for granted. If his career does prove to be as fulfilling as he hopes, it will be in part because he patterned his approach to the game after a man who helped define his position in the modern NFL era. Sanders first met that man, John Lynch, in Hawaii.
"Meeting John was at the top of my list when I made the Pro Bowl after my second year," said Sanders. "His longevity, respect and playmaking ability are what I strive for in this league. His play changed the dynamics of the safety position."
Sanders is just one of dozens of players, coaches, administrators and members of the media from around the league who recently shared their thoughts on Lynch and his career, prompted by Lynch's retirement press conference on Monday at One Buccaneer Place. So, without further ado, here is…
What They Are Saying About John Lynch
Buccaneers Executive Vice President Joel Glazer: "John Lynch is one of the core players who turned this team around and made it great, and I mean that in regards to both his play on the field and the way he conducted himself off the field. He was always one of those players you couldn't help rooting for, because he worked so hard at the game, obviously cared very deeply about the team's success and was a true professional in every sense of the word. We'll miss his big hits and his timely picks, but we'll always consider John a part of the family."
Former Buccaneers Fullback Mike Alstott: "It was an honor and privilege to have played with John for so many years. I was just glad to have been on his team because of the punishing blows he inflicted on the opposing running backs. As a young player coming into the League I was lucky to have a vet like John around as a mentor to show me how to be a professional, how to prepare and how to succeed in this game. John was the true definition of a leader, hard worker and punishing hitter but more so, a great human being. The NFL and the game of football won't be the same without number 47 lurking in the defensive backfield. As he approaches the next chapter in his life, it's a pleasure to know that John and I, as well as our families, will remain close friends."
Chicago Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo (Buccaneers Director of Player Personnel, 1987-00): "When you say a player is great, the obvious criteria is his play and talent, but there's another ingredient that I think is equally important and that's the intangible… the 'it factor' as some describe it. It's what he meant to his teammates, his coaches and his fans and when you factor that into the equation, then the only place that can recognize John for what he did and who he was, is Canton, for he truly was a Hall of Famer."
Broncos Cornerback and Captain Champ Bailey: "It was an honor and a pleasure to play four years with John Lynch. I learned a lot from him. John was one of the most intense players I have ever played with, and he is a DEFINITE Hall of Famer."
Buccaneers Cornerback Ronde Barber: "John was the consummate pro. He was probably the best teammate that anybody could want. Especially because I had in my room for so many years, I knew what he did to prepare himself to play every week. He rubbed off on a lot of players. I think what you see on our team now still has a lot to do with what he did while he was here. The time comes for everybody to hang it up and the time is probably now for him, but he had a great career and we're all proud of him."
ESPN Personality Chris Berman: "John Lynch was a joy to watch, and a horror to play against. He breathed and exuded football, and was a major reason for the transformation of the Buccaneers from laughingstock to champion. John was a great player, but even is a better person. I don't know of anyone who wasn't thrilled for him when Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl."
Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen: "Not only was John Lynch one of the great players to play for the Denver Broncos, but he was one of the finest community representatives we have ever had as well. His class and professionalism was a model for every player, and the entire Broncos organization wishes John well in retirement. John Lynch participated in nine Pro Bowls and was considered one of the great safeties in NFL history, and I was honored to have him as a Bronco for the last four years."
Buccaneers Linebacker Derrick Brooks: "First of all, I want to congratulate John on a tremendous career, a Hall of Fame career. I pray that the Lord's will that at the end of our journey we do make it to Canton. Obviously, we won a World Championship and turned this franchise around and John will always be remembered as one of the cornerstones that got it done. It was a pleasure of mine, not only to be his teammate for football, but I feel like I have a lifetime friend. No matter what he does now, I know he's going to be a success because he's going to work his behind off to be the best no matter what it is. I just want to say thank you, John, for helping me be a better man as well as a better football player. I know you've set the standard at your position for a lot of safeties that play in this defense and again, you will always be remembered as a guy that in Tampa, Florida is well loved. There are a whole bunch of Lynch jerseys still running around here and a constant reminder here in Tampa of how much you're missed. It's just fitting that he takes the time to come back to Tampa to announce his retirement where his career began as a football player. Once again, thank you. I wish you well and I look forward to seeing you on television."
Former NFL Quarterback and ESPN Personality Trent Dilfer (Buccaneers Quarterback 1994-99): "John Lynch is one of the premier defensive football players of the past 15 years. He is one of the rare individuals whose presence in an organization makes everybody better. More importantly, he is one of the finest men I knew in my 14 year NFL career. John's passion and pursuit for excellence on and off the field should make him a first ballot Hall Of Famer!"
Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy (Buccaneers Head Coach 1996-01): "John Lynch was a joy to coach. He was a great leader and a great teammate who played with passion, toughness and intelligence. But more than that, John was a better person off the field. He set a great example as a husband, father and community-minded citizen and had a positive impact on anyone who came in contact with him."
Buccaneers Running Back Warrick Dunn: "John Lynch exemplified how the position should be played. He played at a high level, physical. I think he was one of the guys that set the standard at the safety position. He was a great player."
Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards (Buccaneers Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Backs, 1996-00): "Obviously there's a fondness for me with John Lynch. We kind of date way back to the stone ages when we were trying to build a defense in Tampa in 1996. He was one of the players who was still there when Tony (Dungy) and myself and the rest of the staff arrived. You're talking about a guy that has worked for everything he's gotten. His humility, his ability to lead, his ability to represent the National Football League, his family, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Denver Broncos – he's all about that. He's all about doing the right thing. You talk about role models that you want your kids to emulate, whether it be on the field or off the field, John Lynch is one of those guys. He's a guy that obviously has done a lot on the football field, he'll get recognized for that. I know him a little bit better than that. I know him as a father, a husband, a great son to the Lynch family, carrying their name. He happens to be my son's (Marcus) godfather so there are a lot of connections with me and this guy. His retirement is one that when he looks back at his career, it won't be about all the tackles that he made or all the Pro Bowls he experienced, the Super Bowl that he was able to win with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It'll be the things that he left the players to learn about being a pro, about being a father, about representing the National Football League in a manner that has been very respectful. My hat goes off to him. I'm proud of him. I can say I knew him when he was just John Lynch, when he wasn't so famous. He knows I've got a deep feeling for this guy. I love him like he's my son. So congratulations John, Linda and all the family. It's going to be a special day."
N.Y. Jets Quarterback Brett Favre: "He is the epitome to me of what a professional football player should symbolize. His position was obviously a physical position and he played that well, but he always seemed to lead his team and show up week-in and week-out. His character and the way he carried himself symbolized winning and leadership. Guys like John Lynch play a long time for a reason. First and foremost, they are good teammates and good leaders. Players want them around and, more so, coaches want them around. People like John are few and far between and it was a pleasure playing against him."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: "John Lynch has been a great representative of the NFL. Throughout his long career, he was an outstanding leader and teammate on and off the field. He was not only a Super Bowl champion, but also a strong contributor to his community in both Tampa and Denver through the John Lynch Foundation. John's list of accomplishments, including selection to the Pro Bowl nine times, places him among the best defensive players of his time. He will always be known for his toughness on the field and for his helping hand in the community."
Former Buccaneers Tackle Paul Gruber: "Number one I just congratulate John on a great career. It's been fun to follow him. Since my retirement, I live in Colorado so I've had the opportunity to watch him play with the Broncos, so it has just been great. I think he's been a great player but probably more so a tremendous spokesperson just for the league and for the Buccaneers and for the Broncos and just a great husband and father. I guess as far as memories when we played together I remember when he came in as a rookie and his first couple of years, I think he was a little bit frustrated. I can remember some conversations with him on planes after games where he was contemplating focusing on playing baseball and not playing football, so I think he made the right choice in his career as things have turned out in just length and success of his career. I think the thing that stands out the most for me is John's work ethic. Even as a young player I know, as a player that was a little more of a veteran at that time, I always felt he was going to be successful at whatever he did because he was just such a hard worker and a student of the game and did a great job of keeping himself in shape physically and working hard at that and that's probably what contributed to the length of his career. I think the game is going to miss him and the league will but he should be congratulated on a great career."
Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden: "John will always be a World Champion. He is not only one of the greatest Buccaneers of all-time, but he is a great man. The National Football League will certainly not be the same without him."
Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Brad Johnson (Buccaneers Quarterback, 2001-04): "John was an awesome teammate who you always knew would be ready to play every week no matter the circumstances. He is a true leader who is respected by everyone who has ever met him. As my roommate on the road for three years in Tampa, he became a great friend of mine. And he also made an incredible impact on the Tampa Bay community and all of us as friends and teammates."
Buccaneers Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin: "He was here in 1996 when I got here. He was one of the first players I met. He was part of the big time change here. I think I remember John Lynch the best as number 47. Those were the days when we had what we called the Lynch Rule. When we called the Lynch Rule, that meant 47 was going to be in the box. He was going to be the eighth guy in the box. Nobody could play it any better then John Lynch. He would light you up."
Pro Football Hall of Fame Defensive End and Fox NFL Sunday Personality Howie Long: "Few players have the opportunity to define their position during their era; even fewer have the opportunity to define a defense. The Tampa 2 Defense is one of the most popular defenses in today's game, the defensive equivalent of the West coast offense often imitated but rarely if ever duplicated. When talking about the Tampa 2, the conversation begins and ends with the big 3: Sapp, Brooks and John Lynch. John Lynch played the game with a mental and physical toughness that set the standard for all safeties during his time. The NFL is losing a great player, a champion and one of its classiest players."
Pro Football Hall of Fame Safety Ronnie Lott: "John Lynch has always been one of the fiercest competitors that ever played the safety position and will go down as one of the top defensive backs in the NFL."
San Francisco 49ers Defensive Backs Coach Johnnie Lynn (Buccaneers Defensive Backs Coach 1994-95): "I coached John Lynch down in Tampa during the 1994-1995 seasons and the thing I want to say about John Lynch is that he was a very smart, intelligent player. A very heady player… Top shelf character… He knew how to make the plays. There are guys in the league that go make the play and do it, and then there are some guys that have to be more conservative because they can't do it. With his ability and knowing himself, he makes plays. It's not a gamble, it's not a calculated risk and he's able to play to that and put those formations that offenses try to do to get you confused and things like that. He was able to unwind it and was able to react. Just kudos to him on his retirement. He's well deserved of retirement. It's not many guys that could put in many years as he did. I love that he got out with a sound state of mind and sound body. You don't ever leave the game but the body gets beat up pretty much. He's been pretty healthy throughout his career toward the end. But once again, I say kudos to him, have fun retiring and hug the babies."
Pro Football Hall of Fame Coach and NBC Sunday Night Football Analyst John Madden: "Over the years, I've had as much respect for John Lynch as anyone who played the game, basically because of the way he played it, all out, all the time. Off the field, he was equally as impressive: cooperative, friendly and a force in his community. Knowing him and watching him play, you knew you were looking at someone very special. If someone asked me to describe John Lynch, I would use the term 'clean dirt'. Off the field he was angelic. On it, he was as tough as they come."
Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning: "John Lynch is one of the best football players I've ever played against. In my opinion, he's one of the top safeties to ever play the game. His ability to deliver game changing hits caused you as a player to always know where he was on the field. He was an unbelievable competitor, great leader and a class act."
Detroit Lions Head Coach Rod Marinelli (Buccaneers Defensive Line Coach, 1996-01; Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line, 2002-05): "He's a first class individual, just a tremendous human being. The big three: 47, 55 and 99. I think he brought such competence to our defense in leadership and obviously, a great football player, as tough of a football player you'll ever want to be around and I always admired that. His preparation was incredible and even beyond that was the type of person he was, the type of family man that he is. It was just a great honor to be part of a defense with a guy like that and be a world champion."
Detroit Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew (Buccaneers Cornerback, 1993-96): "John played the game the way it's supposed to be played. He was always prepared and he always worked at it and when the opportunities came to make his plays, he always made his plays. This was a guy who was a third round pick who played at linebacker the first year and then we put him at safety when Coach (Tony) Dungy got there and he just took off. He just took off from there. He is one of the guys that I am really proud to have played with him. Guys like John, Derrick Brooks and Darrell Green are guys that I'm really proud to have been a teammate of."
Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay (Buccaneers General Manager, 1995-03): "John Lynch was a great player and one of the premier safeties in the NFL. He positively impacted the Buccaneer franchise both with his punishing hits on the field and with his well-documented, community work off the field that positively impacted a lot of lives. If you followed the Bucs during John's tenure with the team, you saw and felt his impact on opposing receivers and running backs who were never too happy to be playing against Number 47."
Former Buccaneers Tight End Dave Moore: "John Lynch was a guy that was in the perfect system at the perfect time. Monte Kiffin came in when he was here and John was a guy that fit that Tampa 2 safety that could come up and run support, was smart enough to read pass routes on defense to be able to pick off balls and was really an invaluable guy to Tampa and their success when they really needed him."
Former Buccaneers Linebacker Hardy Nickerson: "John was one of the greatest individuals I ever played with. Not only was he a fierce competitor and bone jarring tackler but he was one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet. A true friend in the locker room and both on and off the field. Congratulations John on your Hall of Fame career. Enjoy your family."
Former NFL Quarterback Jake Plummer (Broncos Teammate, 2004-06): "John was as much a champion off the field as he was on the field. A true friend, great leader and a joy to play ball with. Point blank he was and is a badass."
Pittsburgh Steelers Safety Troy Polamalu: "I have a really unique relationship with John Lynch because in college, when Coach Pete Carroll came to USC, he put in the exact same defense that was used while Lynch played for Tampa Bay; he was very close to Monte Kiffin. I looked up to John even when I was growing up in college; learning from him and doing all of the little things to try to emulate him. I had a blessing in the NFL during my second year when I made it to the Pro Bowl and got to play with him. He has always had the reputation of being a great hitter; one time, while I was making a tackle, he came and hit me in the back; really hard too. He said 'sorry Troy, I'm sorry.' I told him that it was actually an honor to receive a hit from him. I respect his game so much that I actually gave him my Super Bowl helmet because he has meant so much to me as a football player. Anybody that knows him also knows that he is a really great individual."
Former NFL Linebacker Junior Seau: "John is a fierce competitor, someone to emulate both on and off the field. I have known John for many years as we have San Diego roots in common, and I continually am impressed by his sheer talent, strength of character, leadership, and loyalty. He is a "good" guy in every sense of the word. I value his friendship highly and wish him the best of luck in his retirement, which knowing John, he will engage in with the same drive, spirit, and perseverance as he did his football career."
Denver Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan: "John was a consummate professional in his entire NFL career. He earned his nine Pro Bowl appearances by his play on the field, but he was named captain by his teammates for his leadership and work ethic. He always took time to assist a teammate, to work in the community, and you could always be sure John Lynch would be there for you on Sunday. It was an honor to coach John Lynch, and I wish him well in his retirement. He was a great credit to the game."
Chicago Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith (Buccaneers Linebackers Coach 1996-00): "John was an extremely smart safety that intimidated an opponent because of the physical nature of his play. When I think of a perfect model for a strong safety, I think of John Lynch. He is a great teammate, a wonderful husband and a loving father. I feel truly blessed to have been able to be on the same team as John for five years."
Former Denver Broncos Wide Receiver and Captain Rod Smith: "A quote on John Lynch? Where do I start? Honestly, I do not know if I ever played with another man who so defined being a professional as John Lynch. He was the BEST professional, and even more as a person than as an athlete. He was totally prepared, and gave you everything he had all the time, whether in film study or practice, and certainly in the game. He was so detailed, so organized, and you do not see that kind of professionalism as much as you would like. What he did was make himself the BEST player for his TEAM, and I loved that. John Lynch is the embodiment of what defines a Hall of Famer. He elevated all the players around him, made the Broncos better every day, and made the Tampa Bay franchise what it is today."
Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin (Buccaneers Defensive Backs Coach, 2001-05): "My everlasting impression of John Lynch is not only him as a player, but John Lynch the man. He is the consummate professional, father and husband. He is an unbelievable guy whose character was displayed in everything he did off the field, and in every snap on the field."
Former Buccaneers Defensive Coordinator Rusty Tillman: "John had great anticipation skills, was a great hitter and as tough and as smart as they come. These traits define John Lynch; one of the great safeties of the modern era."
Former Buccaneers Head Coach Sam Wyche: "The late Bill Walsh called me before the 1992 NFL Draft and said: 'Don't let this guy get away!' I told him: 'If I can persuade him to forgo baseball, he will be a Buccaneer!' John, his wife Linda, and all the parents quickly became special people in my life. John sets the example, then lives it. He commands respect without demanding it. He is a loyal friend, a relentless competitor, an unyielding leader, and a classic winner."