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Fennelly: Bucs' Lynch showed that third-round picks can hit big

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Published:   |   Updated: April 28, 2013 at 01:48 AM
TAMPA -

Friday night in the NFL draft, the Bucs chose Mike Glennon, quarterback, North Carolina State, in the third round.

And 20 years ago, with their second pick of the third round in the 1993 NFL draft, the 82nd pick overall, the Bucs chose John Lynch, safety, Stanford.

“My goodness, 20 years,” Lynch said.

You never know when a guy is going to be the guy. It's true this year and it was true 20 years ago.

It turned out that Lynch was the first drafted piece on a defense that would eventually rule the world. Others would follow: Sapp, Brooks, Barber, Kelly, McFarland … but John Lynch was first — in 1993.

That is, not long after the Bucs chose Lamar Thomas, receiver, Miami, with their first pick of the third round, 3A.

“I was 3B,” Lynch said. “Lamar still calls me that when we see each other, 'Hey, 3B, how you doing?'”

John Lynch, 41, made nine Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl, became one of the game's most feared hitters and bona fide Hall of Fame material.

We begin in 1993. Lynch is sitting in his parents' home in San Diego. It's the third round.

“And I'm miserable,” he said. “It's the longest day of my life.”

He had expected to go late-first or mid-second round. Now he was angry. He thought about baseball again; the Florida Marlins had drafted him in 1992 in the second round, pitcher.

The phone rang. It was Bucs head coach Sam Wyche.

Tim Ruskell, then Bucs' director of college scouting, had seen Lynch play. Ruskell went to then-Bucs director of player personnel Jerry Angelo and told him, “You're going to love this Lynch kid.”

Lynch had thought about leaving Stanford early for baseball. Then, before his senior season, Stanford hired a new head coach: Bill Walsh. Yes, that Bill Walsh. And he wanted John Lynch at safety.

“When Bill Walsh wants you … I look back and I think the best football I ever played in my life was my senior year at college,” Lynch said. “I was on fire.”

“Quarterback smarts, hit like a linebacker,” Ruskell said. “He was an intimidating force.”

“He was a glass eater,” Angelo said.

It still wasn't enough for the Bucs to take Lynch in the first round … or the second round … or even with their first pick of the third round. Lynch's 40 time wasn't great, plus there was the specter of baseball.

Sam Wyche went to work. Wyche had worked for Bill Walsh. In 1979, they'd selected a quarterback for the 49ers in the third round, also 82nd overall: Joe Montana. Walsh lobbied Wyche. Wyche, in turn, lobbied Lynch.

“I got to know John, his parents, everyone,” Wyche said. “I don't think there was anything left in my tank.”

On draft day, Wyche phoned Lynch.

“He tells me they're taking me, that things are changing around there,” Lynch said. “But he tells me I have to do him a favor. Sam says, 'Please tell this man you're not using football as leverage with baseball, that you're going to sign with us.'”

Wyche handed the phone to: Hugh Culverhouse.

“Mr. C had been burned by Bo Jackson,” Lynch said. “I tell him, 'Mr. Culverhouse, this is John Lynch. Football is truly my passion. You draft me and I promise that you'll never regret it.'”

With their first-round pick of the 1993 draft, the Bucs chose: Eric Curry, defensive lineman, Alabama.

“There's a name to forget,” Jerry Angelo said.

John Lynch isn't.

It was rough at first. The Bucs were the end of the earth — and Lynch still thought he might get cut. He fought injuries. The Bucs kept foundering. Then it all changed.

In 1995, the Bucs made two first-round picks: Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. And there was a coaching change. Lynch vividly recalls when he met Tony Dungy and the new secondary coach, Herm Edwards.

“They told me, 'We're going to do some things in this scheme and we think you're the perfect guy for them. We'll change the way the safety position is played.'”

That they did.

“I guess the moral is things tend to work out,” Lynch said. “You're drafted third round by the Bucs, and people almost feel sorry for you. Then they're sorry you gave up baseball … my mom told me that. … And then we're in San Diego, the Super Bowl, in my hometown …”

Happy 20th, 3B.

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