During his successful 14-year professional career future Hall of Famer John Lynch has redefined the safety position in the NFL with his sure-handed tackling and ability to stop the run. But it was in the Pop Warner Football leagues of Southern California that Lynch first discovered his passion for the gridiron, and learned valuable life lessons about teamwork and self-sacrifice.
We spoke to him recently to get his thoughts on Pop Warner Football and why he thinks youth sports is so important to the development of young people.
Is it true that you still remember the first time you hit a quarterback in Pop Warner as an 11-year-old?
Yeah. I remember taking some licks for the first time too. Those were some fond memories but early memories are what team sports are all about.
Did Pop Warner teach you anything you could apply off the field?
Working together as a team, because you're only as strong as your weakest link. Picking up your buddy, responsibility, being there on time and being there for your buddies. You always weren't the best at every sport--it's a humbling sport--so all those lessons I learned at that time.
I remember you tearing apart my San Dieguito Mustangs when you were a quarterback at Torrey Pines High School--then later you moved over to safety at Stanford. How did playing both sides of the ball help your overall football IQ?
I understood what offenses were trying to do. Not only did I play quarterback, but I also played in the West Coast Offense under coach Dennis Green. Ron Turner who is the offensive coordinator at Chicago now, was my quarterback coach and offensive coordinator at Stanford. So I understood how offenses tried to attack defenses and I think it really helped me.
Your John Lynch foundation has been very involved in many community initiatives providing encouragement and positive alternatives for young people. What drew you to this kind of work?
I was very fortunate I was taught a certain way, but my parents and I feel it's each and everyone's responsibility to give back to their community. I think you learn so much from it and you make your community a better place and it feels real good as well.
The John Lynch Foundation is a program to assist and motivate young people to become effective community leaders. For more information, check out the John Lynch Foundation website.