NFL

49ers’ John Lynch enters Hall with fond memories of Bill Walsh

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John Lynch got chills Sunday morning recalling Bill Walsh’s impact on his career, specifically in steering him from a converted safety at Stanford to a freshly crowned Pro Football Hall of Fame safety.

“I would have gone off and played baseball,” Lynch recalled in a video conference with reporters. “I certainly wouldn’t be here without Bill Walsh.”

Lynch, 49, is part of a Hall of Fame class that was unveiled Saturday night that includes Peyton Manning, with whom he developed a bond at past Pro Bowls talking football and downing mai tais.

Some 30 years ago, Lynch was pitching for the Erie Sailors in the Florida Marlins’ farm system when then-Stanford coach Bill Walsh reached out and requested a sit-down upon Lynch’s return for his junior season.

Walsh’s eventual pitch: “I understand the great opportunity you have in baseball but I believe you can be an All-Pro safety in the NFL.”

Lynch, who initially went to Stanford as a quarterback, recalled Sunday how Walsh showed him video clips alternating between plays he made at safety with those by 49ers’ great Ronnie Lott.

“Of all the people who spoke this into existence, Coach Walsh was so instrumental,” said Lynch, also acknowledging the late Dennis Green for his position switch at Stanford..

Come 1993, Lynch was drafted in the third round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at No. 82 overall.

Lynch called it “meant to be” that, after eight straight years as a finalist, his entry would come the same year the Super Bowl was held in Tampa, where his NFL career began merely as a special-teams ace.

The Buccaneers’ regime at the time included general manager Rich McKay and coach Sam Wyche. Their earlier 1993 draft picks: defensive end Eric Curry (first round), linebacker Demetrius DuBose (second) and wide receiver Lamar Thomas (third).

Lynch is part of a heavyweight class slated for induction Aug. 5-9 in Canton, with other enshrinees being Manning, Charles Woodson, Calvin Johnson, Tom Flores, Alan Faneca, Drew Pearson and Bill Nunn.

Lynch learned of his selection two weeks ago when Hall of Fame president David Baker came knocking on the door of Lynch’s offseason home in San Diego, where Lynch thought a large collection of family had gathered simply after church to watch the NFL’s conference championship games.

“Loudest knock I’ve ever heard and probably the best knock I’ve ever heard,” Lynch said.

Lynch’s leadership and menacing presence helped turn the Buccaneers into Super Bowl XXXVII champions in his 11-year tenure there. He played his final four seasons with the Denver Broncos, suiting up for them the first time in the 2004 Hall of Fame exhibition game in Canton.

After working as a Fox analyst, Lynch surprisingly got hired the 49ers’ general manager four years ago, as the hand-picked choice of coach Kyle Shanahan. Lynch won NFL Executive of the Year honors last year from the Pro Football Writers of America.

Lynch acknowledged Sunday one major oversight in his 49ers tenure: bypassing Patrick Mahomes, who is playing in his second straight Super Bowl for the Kansas City Chiefs.

“That would probably haunt me for a while,” said Lynch, who then recalled attending Mahomes’ workout on a windswept Texas day and acing it.

“We were in a different place as an organization. It’s really kind of a smokescreen and we were going elsewhere,” Lynch said of the 49ers’ No. 2 draft pick. “I remember calling Kyle (Shanahan) and saying we may want to rethink this.

“He put on a show in Lubbock,” Lynch added. “Everybody’s jaw was dropping. It was remarkable. He’s an incredible kid. We went to dinner with him. He started to share those other elements and he wanted to be great. He’s a tremendous player and is on a trajectory where he’ll go down as one of the greats.”

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