Lynch's success a family affair


CHICAGO -- Jim and Sheila Lynch are talking about what initially brought their son to Northern Illinois, rehashing all of the near-offers, hesitations and other excuses bestowed upon the quarterback from coaches along the recruiting trail. They are sitting on the big red sofa in the living room of their Mount Greenwood home, a bungalow located just inside Chicago's city limits. This was where their son Jordan was lying down after another offer-less trip five years ago, to Ball State. Barely cracking the thresholds of six feet and 200 pounds, he'd heard that he was undersized. He'd been told that he could never play quarterback at the major college level, not after running Frank Lenti's veer offense at Mount Carmel High School, where he threw the ball no more than a dozen times a game.

Still, he already had another camp scheduled for the following week at Purdue, the program that calls itself the Cradle of Quarterbacks.

But Lenti -- known affectionately in these circles as Coach Frank -- had vouched for his signal-caller to then-NIU coach Jerry Kill. Coach Frank and Kill had crossed paths across the Midwest over the years. On this June day of Jordan's junior year, his father would not take no for an answer.

"It was like the fourth camp, it was under the lights on a Friday," Jim Lynch says, wearing a red Huskies crew sweatshirt. "I said: 'Jordan, c'mon. We're gonna go up to Northern.' He goes: 'Dad, I'm tired. I really don't wanna go to Northern.'"

"Because we just got home from Ohio," Sheila adds.

"He goes: 'Dad, I really don't wanna go up to Northern's camp. I don't really know too much about it,'" Jim continues. "And I said: 'Well it's on a Friday, and there's no other camps. Let's go. It's under the lights.'

"Took him there. Loved it. He met the coaches. He described the coaches that he met, Coach Kill and his staff, like they were the Mount Carmel coaches, like Coach Frank. Immediately he took a liking and never looked back. He lit it up. Just everything seemed to work out for him. He just goes there and puts the work in and lets everything else take care of itself."

The rest, as Kill later said, is history.

Lynch became just the third player from the Mid-American Conference to be in New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, where he placed third in the voting on Dec. 14, a result of his more than 4,500 yards of offense, his 45 touchdowns, a relentless marketing effort from his school and his Huskies' 12-1 record this season.

But the seeds for those credentials were planted and manifested through the last 15 years here in Mount Greenwood, where the biggest football exploits of late come from nearby St. Xavier, winner of the NAIA national title two years ago. Basketball draws attention year-round here, and Jordan's father and his older brother, Jim Jr., even refer to themselves as former baseball players, mentors who could not keep a younger Jordan from practice as a running back for the Mount Greenwood Colts back in his super-pee wee days.

Jordan got to hold the Heisman Trophy when former winner and Chicago native Johnny Lattner brought it to a youth awards banquet roughly a decade ago, but that had been about as close as the honor -- or even the mere mention of it -- has been to this area in recent memory.

Until now.

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