It’s among the hottest T-shirts in the San Francisco Bay area for a team which has advanced to Super Bowl 54, thanks to the handiwork of general manager John Lynch.
It reads “Mobile to Miami” and it illustrates how far the 49ers have traveled with a roster constructed by Lynch.
But it could just as easily read “Del Mar to Miami.”
Lynch, a former two-sport standout at Torrey Pines High School, has his fingerprints on a squad which faces the Kansas City Chiefs in South Florida on Feb. 2. But this time last year Lynch, and his coaching staff, were down south at the Senior Bowl in Alabama.
After going 4-12 in 2018, the 49ers’ staff was tasked with helping players prepare for their final college game. It’s a responsibility which goes to an organization coming off a disastrous season.
Chargers fans — still any out there? — know the benefits that role can bring. Following a 4-12 season in 2003, then-coach Marty Schottenheimer and colleagues aided the Senior Bowl. It was there they became smitten with Philip Rivers, the soon-to-be, free-agent quarterback who recently exited his Rancho Santa Fe residence for Florida.
Lynch could play, too. He’s a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a safety with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Denver Broncos. Just maybe, he gets the hall call the day before the 49ers claim their sixth Super Bowl title.
Like Lynch has before every game since being hired in 2017, he’ll receive a good-luck text from Solana Beach’s John Kentera. Lynch always returns it quickly.
“Sometimes it’s more about family than football,” said Kentera, a sports talk show host on 97.3 FM The Fan.
Kentera’s link to Lynch is strong. He coached him in football and baseball at Torrey Pines and his family would house-sit when Lynch’s parents were traveling.
Lynch’s drive was evident as a teenager.
“He just had a tremendous passion to play ball,” Kentera said. “We would be watching TV and every time there was a commercial, he would do 100 sit-ups.”
Now Lynch’s team, which went 13-3, makes the NFL sit up and take notice. He was named the league’s executive of the year by the Pro Football Writers Association.
Lynch always ran with the winners, starting at Torrey Pines and then at Stanford University where he played for one-time Del Mar resident Dennis Green, and then for legendary coach Bill Walsh.
Save Walsh replacing Green for Lynch’s senior year, maybe Lynch isn’t heading for South Beach.
The Florida Marlins had drafted Lynch as a pitcher and his future was on the diamond, but Walsh reached out to Lynch, who was originally recruited to Stanford as a quarterback by coach Jack Elway, John’s father.
Lynch decided to play for Walsh and he continued his switch to defense after playing a few games at safety his junior year. Following a solid senior season, he was drafted by the Buccaneers and Was part of a unit which won Super Bowl 37 in San Diego.
After he retired, Lynch, a nine-time Pro Bowler, became a star calling NFL games on FOX. But he changed gears once again to become an NFL executive.
Among Lynch’s signature moves were trading for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and drafting defensive end Nick Bosa with the second pick last year.
“He’s looking for guys that play hard every play and don’t take plays off, which is just like him,” Kentera said. “He likes guys with a good attitude.
“He was always such a good teammate and you can tell his players have a lot of respect for him. He relates to the players well and part of that is Johnny’s track record as a player.”
Lynch’s huddles now come in an executive suite. What would be sweet for Kentera, and others in North County calling Lynch a friend, is him becoming a Super Bowl champion once again.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports