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Jordan Lynch stays humble amid the Heisman hubbub

79th annual Heisman Trophy Award ceremony

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Best Buy Theater, New York

TV: ESPN

2012 winner: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

Finalists:

• Jordan Lynch, NIU quarterback

• Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M quarterback

• Tre Mason, Auburn running back

• AJ McCarron , Alabama quarterback

• Andre Williams, Boston College running back

• Jameis Winston, Florida State quarterback

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Updated: December 13, 2013 9:17PM



Jordan Lynch didn’t want Bo Jackson to get the wrong impression.

Lynch got a call from an unknown number Wednesday night. For a second, he wasn’t sure whether he should answer it. Since being named one of six finalists for the Heisman Trophy on Monday, Lynch has become a household name, and he is getting approached by plenty of people he doesn’t know.

The Northern Illinois senior quarterback answered anyway on the advice that important people could be calling him in the days leading up to the trophy presentation Saturday.

Thanks to spotty cellphone reception, all Lynch could make out was a last name. About a minute into the conversation, Lynch thought he got it right: Frisman Jackson, the Huskies’ former wide receivers coach who now holds the position at North Carolina State. Lynch likes Frisman, but he wasn’t as enthused to hear from him as he would be to hear from the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner, arguably the best American athlete of all-time.

Lynch addressed him as “Fris” some five minutes into the conversation when Jackson corrected him. A humbled Lynch changed his tone dramatically, to the point where Jackson told Lynch to stay in touch.

Lynch is a hold-the-door-for-anyone kind of guy who doesn’t take himself seriously. That’s what has made his teammates so enthusiastic about the school’s yearlong “Lynch for Heisman” campaign. Lynch credits them for his recognition.

“It takes great teammates, great friends in the locker room,” Lynch said. “They’re really supportive of me for one reason, and that’s because I’m not a cocky kid. I don’t go out there and try to make all the attention on myself.”

So much so that Thursday, some 24 hours before he was set to leave for New York, Lynch walked into the Huskies’ athletic offices for the first time in his five seasons on campus.

Lynch took the time to shake the hands of many he didn’t know as he roamed the halls, passing the time between radio interviews.

It’s a group that can lay claim to working for a university that not only boasts a Heisman finalist and the only player in FBS history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and run for more than 1,500 (he did that last season), but more importantly the only school to offer Lynch a Division I scholarship.

That’s why Lynch stayed loyal to his university. After graduating last year, Lynch could have transferred to a major-conference school.

“He’s loyal. When he commits to doing something, he’s all in,” said Lynch’s dad, Jim. “It’s what’s driven him to be passionate about the game of football.”

And what has vaulted Lynch from fringe Division I prospect to potential NFL talent.

Though Lynch doesn’t project as a quarterback in the pros, his aim is to remain under center.

“That’s what I was told coming out of high school, and I did nothing but prove people wrong,” Lynch said. “So I’ll be willing to prove them wrong again.”

How exactly will he do that?

Mt. Carmel coach Frank Lenti, who coached Lynch in high school and lobbied Northern Illinois to offer him a scholarship to play quarterback, has the answer. It’s the same thing he has written on every NFL questionnaire he has received on his former signal-caller.

“Way too many kids today think it’s about rights and privileges when it’s all about earned and deserved, and I think Jordan Lynch exemplifies that,” Lenti said.

During high school, Lynch thought he had earned the chance to play major-conference college football. His dream was to play at Notre Dame, but the school didn’t show any interest, according to Lynch.

The Irish also will be going to New York this month, albeit to play in the Pinstripe Bowl. Lynch is headed to New York for the national spotlight. He could say, ‘I told you so,’ but he’s not that type of guy.

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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