In each of the last seven years, John Lynch's Pro Football Hall of Fame candidacy has abruptly ended with a call from David Baker, the president of the Hall of Fame.
Those phone calls, which let Lynch know he would not be among those elected to the Hall, have served as a consistent and brutal rebuke as Lynch stood on the doorstep of Canton.
On Saturday, Lynch at last earned pro football's highest honor as the Hall of Fame announced during NFL Honors that Lynch was a member of the Class of 2021.
"A couple weeks ago on Championship Sunday, I received a wonderful knock on my door, and it was David Baker from the Pro Football Hall of Fame letting me know that my time had come, that'd I'd be getting inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Class of 2021," Lynch said. "... I just wanted to thank everybody in Denver, the Denver Broncos, everybody in Broncos Country for four wonderful years in Denver as a Bronco and then we ended up living there for 11 years and raising our family there. So thankful to everybody in Denver who supported us, who supported the John Lynch Foundation and everything we tried to do — but most of all just cheered us on and had our backs. We appreciate you. It's so special for the Broncos, Mr. Bowlen, Steve Atwater, Champ [Bailey], myself now — and I've got a pretty good idea Peyton Manning's going to be coming into the class with me. The Broncos are finally getting their due to go along with guys like John Elway and many more to come. Thank you, Broncos Country. Appreciate it, love you all and thank you for everything."
Only 10 players in NFL history had been named a Hall of Fame finalist in at least eight consecutive years, and Lynch was one of just two of those players without a gold jacket. He shed that distinction as he became the ninth Hall of Famer in Broncos history. Peyton Manning will likely join Lynch in the Class of 2021, as well.
"Being a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the last eight years, John has waited a long time for this moment," Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis said. "He was so much more than a four-time Pro Bowler with the Broncos, bringing tremendous leadership and presence to our team while solidifying his place among the greatest safeties in NFL history. Even after his decorated career with the Bucs, John still had such a desire to be the best. What we accomplished in 2005 — going 13-3 and hosting the AFC Championship Game — would not have been possible without one of the best seasons of John's career. We congratulate him on his long-awaited election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
A two-time first-team All-Pro, Lynch spent the final four years of his career in Denver after playing 11 years and winning a Lombardi trophy in Tampa.
Lynch made the Pro Bowl in each of his four seasons in Denver, and he is one of just seven players to earn four Pro Bowl nods with multiple teams. All of the eligible players in that group are now in the Hall of Fame. Lynch's nine Pro Bowl selections also rank second all-time among safeties.
Lynch's finest season in Denver likely came in 2005, as he recorded a pair of interceptions, eight pass breakups, four forced fumbles and a team-leading four sacks.
With Lynch among the leaders in Denver's secondary, the Broncos advanced to the 2005 AFC Championship game.
Lynch was inducted into both the Broncos' Ring of Fame and the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor in 2016, making him one of a select few individuals — including Eric Dickerson, Reggie White, Marshall Faulk and Vince Lombardi — to be enshrined in multiple Rings of Fame/Honor.
Now, he's also headed for Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Lynch — and likely Manning — are expected to be enshrined in Canton later this summer. Class of 2020 electee Steve Atwater will be enshrined, as well.