It’s the perfect ESPN 30 for 30 script.
“What if I told you, that Bo Jackson nearly changed the entire course of John Lynch’s career?”
A case could easily be made. That’s because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers considered passing on Lynch in the 1993 NFL Draft. Why? Because seven years earlier, when the Bucs selected Jackson with the No. 1 overall pick in 1986, the former two-sport star at Auburn opted to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals.
Tampa Bay ultimately lost Jackson’s rights for nothing, and the Los Angeles Raiders drafted him with a seventh round pick the following year. At that juncture, Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse vowed to never take a chance on another baseball player.
That was a problem for Lynch, who was in the middle of a minor league baseball career with the Florida Marlins organization. Uncertainty clouded the draft stock of the former Stanford safety.
“There was a lot of conjecture that I wouldn’t leave a baseball career,” Lynch said. “(Teams believed) that I was just trying to get more money out of the Florida Marlins.”
The speculation was enough to drop Lynch out of the first two rounds. The disappointment started on Day 1, when the Green Bay Packers nearly selected Lynch with the 29th overall pick.
They, too, were skeptical of Lynch’s ambitions as a professional football player.
“Are you going to give up baseball?” a Packers executive asked him at the time.
“I said, ‘Absolutely,’” Lynch recalled. “’If you draft me, I’m playing football and committing to the Green Bay Packers.’”
But Green Bay passed on Lynch and went with Alabama safety George Teague instead.
By the time the third round rolled around, 49ers legend and then-Stanford head coach Bill Walsh got involved. He placed a phone call to Bucs head coach Sam Wyche before Tampa Bay went on the clock at pick No. 82.
“I’ve talked to John, if given the chance, he wants to play football,” Walsh told Wyche. “That’s his dream.”
Wyche still needed to convince Culverhouse to retract his bias against baseball players. The owner decided to call Lynch himself during the middle of the draft.
“I had to convince him that I wanted to play football for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” Lynch said. “They took me and the rest is history.”
History indeed. Lynch would go on to play 15 years in the NFL, make nine Pro Bowls, be named All-Pro twice and win one Super Bowl. Not too shabby for a third round pick.
“I knew in my heart that I wanted to play football,” Lynch said. “I was crushed because I went so much lower than expected. But it really doesn’t matter where you get drafted. It’s about what you do when you get there.”
Those are sage words for the prospects who will join the 49ers this weekend in the 2017 NFL Draft. Lynch currently has 10 selections at his disposal, and each new face he adds to the roster will bring with them their own draft story. Hopefully Bo Jackson doesn’t get in the way this time around.