John Lynch stepped to the lectern in the spotlight for his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech and almost immediately addressed the elephant in Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
"First, let me say nothing about my Hall of Fame journey has been easy," Lynch began. "I waited eight years as a finalist, and then [Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO] David Baker tells me I'm following Peyton Manning. Thanks a lot, David."
The element of humor, though, would not be as prominent in Lynch's speech as it was for Manning's — but it was no less affecting.
Related: Read Lynch's entire speech here
Here are just a few of the highlights:
THE ADVICE OF ONE HALL OF FAMER TO ANOTHER
Perhaps the most substantial part of Lynch's speech was dedicated to the story of how he transformed himself from a backup college quarterback into a Hall of Fame safety. It began with assistance from his first coach at Stanford, Dennis Green, and it developed further when future Hall of Famer Bill Walsh was hired as the Cardinal's head coach.
"I went to Stanford University as a quarterback and a baseball player. After two years as a number two quarterback, I was tired of that. I decided the best way for me to get on the football field was to convert to safety. I want to thank the late, great Denny Green for guiding me through this life-altering decision. Later that year, I was drafted in the second round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Florida Marlins and believe that baseball was going to be my future. Enter, the late, great Bill Walsh.
"Coach Walsh had returned to Stanford as our head coach in 1992, when Coach Green accepted the head job for the Minnesota Vikings. One day, I received a call from Bill. "Hey John, this is Bill Walsh. I've been studying our defense last year and, John, you were our best defensive player." Shocked, I said to him, "Coach, with all due respect, I played safety for one year and I played half the snaps. How can you possibly arrive at that opinion?" He said, simply, "The film. I watched it, and you can be a Pro Bowl safety in the NFL."
"When I returned to school, in true Bill Walsh fashion, he not only told me, he showed me. He showed me a tape of me making a play, then perhaps a play of perhaps the greatest safety of all time, Ronnie Lott, making a similar play. There were only five plays on that tape, but after watching it, I was all in.
"Coach Walsh, you gave me the confidence to follow my heart to an NFL career. Without you, I'm not standing on this stage today."
'BE THAT PERSON'
One of the key themes of Lynch's speech, which ties into the section above, was that of belief and being someone who can instill it in others.
"As everyone up here will attest, it takes a lot of belief to get to this stage," Lynch said. "However, belief is not something that simply happens. It has to be nurtured a million times over. A note. A pat on the back. A piece of advice. Coaching. These are the things that foster belief in ourselves."
Lynch acknowledged several people who did that for him, including Walsh and Green. He credited his entire family for their love and support, but singled out his wife as the person who most helped him reach this triumphant moment.
"I would not be here today if not for one person: my wife and my best friend, Linda Lynch," Lynch said. "I met Linda in seventh grade in our hometown of San Diego. Linda, you have inspired me as a man, a father, a husband and a leader. For 15 years as an NFL player and nine years with the NFL on FOX, Linda wrote a note to me that I read before every single game. She didn't ever miss one. Her notes always calmed me, focused me and drove me to be my best self. Babe, I love you more than you will ever know, and I'm so grateful and thankful to share this life-changing moment with you."
Linda may have been that person for John, but he could recognize that anyone can have an impact on another's life.
"As my journey illustrates, one person can make a difference," Lynch said. "I encourage each and every one of you to be that person who provides someone else with the belief that they too can be great. Make God bless you all."
BRIDGING THE GAP
Near the end of his speech, Lynch carved out space during his limited time for a subject close to his heart: growing understanding.
"[T]he National Football League is the greatest metaphor for life that I've ever known," Lynch said. "It challenges each and every one of us that plays this great game in every way possible. Everything about the game is hard and tests your will. It compels every man that puts on a uniform to not only do their best, but to be their best. In football we quickly discover we're only as strong as our weakest link, and if we're to achieve the goals that we've set for ourselves, we must all learn to play together and pull together.
"Each of us comes from a different walk of life, but when we huddle up, we huddle up as a team. It doesn't matter where we come from or your background. All that matters is the fulfillment of one goal: victory. Tonight, I advocate that we take the lead of football and huddle up as a people, as a great nation. Let's find the common ground through our shared values. Let's celebrate and learn from our differences. Derrick Brooks, from Pensacola, Florida; Warren Sapp, from Apopka, Florida; and John Lynch, from Solana Beach, California, have. So too can all of you."
Former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and safety John Lynch unveil their Pro Football Hall of Fame busts and give their speeches as they are enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on August 8, 2021.