“Good afternoon and thank you for joining us today as we introduce the newest member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Ring of Honor. This year’s choice was an easy one: John Lynch. John will join Lee Roy Selmon, John McKay, Jimmie Giles, Paul Gruber, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott and Doug Williams as one of the greatest Buccaneers of all time. John came into the NFL as a third round pick in 1993 and then in the 1995 season he started to play more regularly. In the 1996 season, under first-year head coach Tony Dungy, he blossomed. One of my personal great memories of John was in the 1996 season when we played at San Diego. It was Week 11, I actually was sitting in the stands with my friends and I remember John’s family had a box and it was a big deal – his whole family was at the game and they had a banner hanging outside the box and I know John wanted to perform well in front of his whole family there. We were down 14-0. Typically, up to that point, we had not performed very well on the west coast but in typical John Lynch fashion, a fourth quarter interception turned the game around and that was the start – that game was the start of something very, very special.
“My family would always say, throughout his whole career, if we were winning a game and near the end of the game the other team would have the ball, we’d just want a ‘Johnny Lynch Special, a Johnny Lynch Special,’ and a Johnny Lynch Special was just that: a fourth-quarter interception at the end of the game to seal the deal. He’d catch the ball, he’d hit the ground and the game would be over. He played a long time, we have so many amazing memories. When it was all over, at the end of the 2007 season, John’s numbers were staggering. He had established himself as one of the most accomplished safeties in the entire NFL. He made nine Pro Bowl appearances, he was a four-time All-Pro selection. During his 15-year NFL career he recorded more than 1,000 tackles, he forced 16 fumbles and had 26 intercepted passes. And I haven’t even mentioned the Super Bowl. The 2002 season, his play at strong safety is one of the key reasons we won that game.
“One of my favorite quotes about John was made by Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. Barry said, ‘John Lynch didn’t just play the position, he occupied a spot in your mind and you had to be aware of where he was at all times on the field.’ It was perfectly said. For those people that had a chance to know him on a personal level like we did, it was always fascinating to see John, the way he played with such passion and force on the field, but yet handle himself with such grace and class off the field. He’s been named both the Bart Starr Man of the Year and the ‘Whizzer’ White NFL Man of the Year for his community work. He and his wife, Linda, have dedicated themselves to improving the life of student-athletes through the Lynch Family Legacy Scholarship, which has provided over $500,000 in financial assistance to high school seniors in Tampa and Denver. And I’m so proud to see John flourish as one of the top NFL broadcasters at FOX. Two of the past three seasons, our family has had the privilege to go to Canton, Ohio to celebrate the induction of a Tampa Bay Buccaneer into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We do hope that this year we get to travel back to Canton again to see John, and Tony [Dungy], put on the gold jacket. So it’s my distinct pleasure to introduce the newest member of the Buccaneers Ring of Honor, Mr. John Lynch.”
“How’s it going, guys? This is a fun day and it’s one of those days where it’s all good. There don’t have to be any tears like the last time I was standing here, retirement speech and all that. This is just a special opportunity. I got called a couple weeks ago from [Chief Operating Officer] Brian Ford and then from the Glazer family, letting me know of their intentions to do it and when they wanted to do it and I’ve got to tell you that I graciously accepted and was honored, but it wasn’t until I got here, until I started thinking, until we drove by the stadium on the way over here that I really, I think, it started hitting me what this means. It’s very, very special, so thank you to the Glazer family for making this possible and thank you for allowing me to bring my entire family. My family’s grown up since a lot of you have seen them last – we’ll start with Jake down there. Jake’s now 16; Jake – say hello to everyone. Lilly, Lilly is 13 and Lilly, you say hello. Lilly was born right across the street here at St. Joe’s Women’s Hospital, as was Lindsay, my 15-year-old. And then the baby of the family, Leah, right there at eight years old. So it’s great to have you guys with me as we talk about this great honor. And Linda, of course, was there for me from the beginning. When we came here in 1993, we were newly engaged.
“On the way over here today – my routine, when I come by Tampa, and I’m fortunate to come by here quite often to do games for FOX, my routine is always we usually stay at the Renaissance, I get up and I take a run at the real One Buc, the old One Buc, and it’s just a plot of land. There’s a bunch of taxi cabs parking where we used to park, and I told them today, ‘Get out of my spot, that’s our spot.’ But whenever I go there, so many memories come back. Going back to ’93 when the Hall of Fame golf course was still right across the street, but mainly it’s memories about the journey that we had there. Coming in, I was drafted by the Buccaneers – I see Jerry Angelo back there and Jerry was a big part of that – but I think the reality is Bill Walsh told Sam Wyche, ‘You’re a fool if you don’t draft this guy and Sam took a chance on me. I had a defensive coordinator in Floyd Peters who I don’t think really wanted to draft me, didn’t think I could be a player in this league, and it took about two-and-a-half years to prove to him that I could. And Tony and the entire staff came in and the rest is history.
“Today, what I would really like to focus on is just a few thank yous. Implicit with an honor like this is that there are a lot of people that helped you along the way. My head coaches, it started with Sam Wyche, who took a chance on me, Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden, who we ultimately won a World Championship with – to those guys, I appreciate you. So many great assistants, from Johnnie Lynn, who was my first DB coach, to Herm Edwards, to Mike Tomlin, to Monte Kiffin, to Lovie Smith, to Rod Marinelli – the list goes on. There are so many great coaches who walked through those halls.
“We were telling some great stories as I was there today. The memories of One Buc. You’d be out eating, you’d go by the hallway to get your food from Jose and Sandra – I usually got a Cubano sandwich [laughing] – and then you’d go out maybe on Venice Beach, [what we called] our weight room and eat it out there to get away from things. As humble of an office and a place to work as it was, it was a lot of special memories and a lot of hard work went into turning this organization around. We were able to do that. The front office people, Jerry [Angelo] is here, Rich McKay, all those guys meant a lot to my career. They believed in me when other people didn’t, and I appreciate that.
“And, finally, the teammates. I see a lot of you back there: Dwight [Smith], I see you back there, Cosey [Coleman], Corey [Ivy], Danny [Goodspeed], Martin [Gramatica], Ryan [Benjamin] – all you guys. I appreciate you being here. When I drive over there to the old One Buc, what comes back are those times that we all had in that building. And that’s what you remember. You remember the hard times, you remember the good times, and you remember what it took to get from the hard times to the good times.
“Finally, I’d just like to say that it’s just an unbelievable honor to get up there and forever be up on that stadium with a lot of my best friends in this world. Paul Gruber was a guy who early on was one of the guys that I tried to emulate. Some of my best friends, Derrick and Warren and Mike Alstott – Mike is coaching at the Shrine Game, but sent me a nice message today. Derrick is going to meet me here later. It’s just unbelievable, not only to be up there, but to be up there with that company. It’s just an incredibly proud moment for me, for my family, and I just want to thank everyone for being here.”
(On his experience once the franchise “turned the corner” in the late 90s)
“I was thinking as Bryan [Glazer] was talking up here, Bryan said that game in San Diego that we hadn’t been very good in the West Coast – Bryan, we hadn’t been good anywhere at that point [laughing]. There were some lean years and we knew it. But at about that time, things started to swing. It started to be a belief amongst a lot of the younger players and the older players that had survived the previous regimes that we were onto something special. And I give so much credit to Coach Dungy who was there. He kind of created the vision for us in terms of what we could do and how we were going to go about doing that. It just took a lot of stubborn guys believing that we could undo a lot of tough and lean years and arrive at the top. We got knocked down a bunch of times. You always say that you want to retire with no regrets, and I think I did that with the way I played, but there are a ton of regrets, because I feel like that team, the team that we had, was so special – not only the players, the talent, but the makeup, the fabric of it – that you feel like we should have had three or four of those rings. But to have the one was special. I don’t have my ring on because it got stolen, unfortunately, about three months ago. It’s in the process of being replaced. So, sorry I don’t have that, but what [that ring] represents is all that hard work. And you could really feel it turn right around that time. I think [at] that San Diego game, we finally bought in to what was being sold to us in terms of, ‘If you do this, good things will start to happen.’ We did, and it didn’t happen right away, we had to stay after it, [but] we did, and ultimately it worked out.”
(On his proudest moment as a Buccaneer)
“I thought about that on the plane ride here. I think there are a few things that stand out. Obviously winning the championship. I’ve only won one world championship, and I would imagine that, from talking to people, however you do it, it’s sweet, but, again, knowing where we came from, I think made it even more sweet. I got to do it in front of my family out in San Diego, so that was great. But in addition to that, I think the first time I was named captain. I remember Tony calling me in his room and Monte and Herm were all in there and they told me the news. That just – you talk about humbling; that your teammates would choose you as the guy. And then I think, you know, Bryan talked a little bit about the great things our foundation was able to get done in the community, and we’ve carried that forward to Denver, but we still give scholarships here. That’s something that – there was such a special feeling that I don’t know if it exists anywhere else or has existed anywhere else, between the community and that team. Because it felt like we grew up together and there was a sense of pride. It was really, really something special, something to behold. But I think there were a bunch of guys on that team who did a lot of great things in the community, so there was just an unbelievable feeling amongst the players, the entire organization. Those are the things I’m most proud of.”
(On what allowed him to turn the corner and develop into the talented player he became)
“I think a lot of it was confidence. You got to this level and I didn’t have that instant success, so you kind of start believing, ‘Well, maybe I am just a special teams guy.’ Linda and I were talking this morning how, ‘Can you imagine when we first got here, we just said, ‘If we can just make three years. If we can just play this first contract out.’’ Boy, [that] would have been a success. [But] your goals start changing. I started believing in myself a little bit, but a lot of that was created by Tony and them when they came down. Now, the year before, I had started to play some good football, so that’s when I kind of showed myself, ‘You know what? I can be successful in this league. I don’t have to play the Bucco linebacker. I can be a safety.’ I started having the confidence, but then Tony and Herm and Monte, they had a great vision for what I could become in that defense. They said, ‘This is how we see you. Now we have to go make it happen.’ And it started to happen and the rest was history.”
(On the lowest moment of his career)
“The absolute low-point? Maybe when the Florida Marlins – who I had left to come play for the Buccaneers – had won a World Series and I was a backup safety on one of the world’s worth football [teams], one of the worst teams in all of sport. And I’m saying, ‘That wasn’t very intelligent! I left something that was really good and this really isn’t working out.’ There were some times where I thought maybe this just isn’t for me. There were even times when I started talking to my agent about maybe let’s start getting this thing going to go back over to baseball while I’m still young and have an opportunity. And it was about at that time that things started going well. This was always where my heart was. When I left baseball for football, I did it for one reason: I absolutely loved and had a passion for the game. Eventually, when you have passion for something and you work hard, it will always win out. And it did.”
(On his message to the current Buccaneers team)
“I think I would tell them kind of what I was explaining – that this place can be so special, when you put that product out there. It is indeed possible and when you get it done, it’s a beautiful thing. How you build that, I think you have to have a bunch of single-minded people who buy in to a common goal, people from all kinds of different backgrounds. That’s what Dirk’s task is. That’s what Jason’s task is. To get a bunch of guys that believe they can do it. Then you’ve got to put the work in. You’ve got to be unselfish. You’ve got to believe, you really do. It was hard to believe here, because it was a franchise – I remember being told, before I ever came here, ‘You’re going to go there and there’s going to be a lot of guys that say ‘Slow down, rookie, that’s not how we practice here.’’ Sure enough, I came out, popped someone and they [said] ‘No, we don’t do that in practice.’ Fighting that urge, to listen to the older guys because you respect them, but then saying, ‘You know what? You guys haven’t won anything, so let’s try something different.’ I think it takes being a little stubborn like that, being convicted in what you believe to get it done. I think there’s a lot of great pieces here. I will say, I’ve had the opportunity, through my broadcast duties, to be around Dirk and Mike Smith and a lot of the coaches. I was upstairs and I walked in the defensive meeting room and it was nice to see a lot of the guys that are familiar faces to me. I think they’ve built a wonderfully talented staff of guys that really know what they’re doing. Now it’s time to go do the work. I’m pulling for you guys (the Buccaneers) and wish you the best. I will say also that I spoke to Lovie today. I gave him a call. I wanted to tell him how much he’s a part of this. It was good to hear from him. He’s a guy that I will always be thankful to. I’m sure the Glazers are. You’ve got to make tough decisions in this business. They did, for their own reasons, and they’ve got a lot of belief in Dirk and this staff and I wish everyone here the best, because this town, like I said, it’s a special place. When it’s back in the playoffs and winning another championship, that will be a great day for me as well.”
(On being a very physical player and if he would have to change his style of play in today’s NFL)
“It’s a different game. It’s changed and it’s had to. There’s a lot of things that we’re discovering that we didn’t know then. The game is changing. I do bristle a little bit at that notion [that he would have to change his style of play], because I say look at a guy like Kam Chancellor up there in Seattle. He’s learned. You adjust. I played the way I was taught to play and I did it to the best of my ability. That’s what we were taught. Some of those things we saw on that film wouldn’t fly in today’s football, I understand that. I think I also would have changed and I would have adjusted to the way it’s being coached now. I think the game’s great. Every time I get a little concerned, people get a little concerned, you just look at the ratings – 43 million people watched the games last weekend – that kind of stuff. I think the game is in great hands. As much as it changes, it stays the same. The great things about this game come to the forefront.”
(On the impact that he had in the Tampa community)
“I mentioned the things that we were able to accomplish off the field, I’m just as proud of and I sincerely mean that. It takes two to tango and it also took a lot of people. You had to create a vision for ‘Here’s what we’re trying to do.’ I couldn’t believe how the people in Tampa embraced it when we put that vision out there. It’s a special community here, where people want to get involved and get behind what you’re doing. That was really one of the – our kids are back here now and I think we need to be back here more, because we did have some special times. We were able to make some sort of an impact, but a lot of my teammates did. That’s something that we were all proud of.