The 49ers Lynch-Pin: Mind over Matter

Searching for NCAA transfer statistics is quite the hassle. Go ahead and see for yourself. Type in “College Football Transfer List”. Maybe you opt for a more specific Google search that leads you to insert  “NCAA College Football 2012 Transfers” into the search bar. You’ll probably become frustrated, walk away from the computer, grab a glass of water, and resume your investigation, profusely typing away until your knuckles turn white. Don’t worry, I’ve already been through that experience. Finally, after clicking through upwards of 50 or so links you’ll conclude that’s 2012-2013 transfer list is the best available statistical data to demonstrate the total number of (Division I) college football transfers in a given year.

So, why does any of this matter? Why have I ranted about the importance of knowing this data? Why . . . because there is a former transfer football player whom we’ve all been so critical of the past 2 years. We’ve torn his life apart, complained about his “off-field issues” (which led him to transfer), given every reason for why he shouldn’t have been chosen in the NFL Draft, and stirred controversy by questioning his motivation. 49ers’ rookie outside linebacker Aaron Lynch was 1 of 87 transfers from that ’12-’13 list and we made it a point to mentally torment him above all others.

Lynch was an early graduate from Island Coast High School of Cape Coral, Florida. He de-committed from Florida State, saw offers from Miami as well as Florida, but decided to ultimately take his talents to South Bend in the Spring of 2011. This guy was bound to lead the defensive charge for the Fighting Irish. I mean, of course he was destined for greatness; he was the 6th ranked player nationally in the 2010 class. The 2011-2012 campaign featured eye boggling numbers for the freshman Irish defender. Lynch totaled five and a half sacks, seven tackles for a loss, and led the team with the most quarterback hurries (14) since 1998. Manchild, Quarterback Sack Behemoth, The Nutty Irishman, names to describe Lynch we’re being tossed around by Notre Dame fans everywhere. Then IT ENDED.

The Spring of 2012 rolled around and Aaron Lynch WASN’T AT PRACTICE. Lynch abruptly chose to transfer to USF (University of South Florida) citing a desire to be closer to home. Notre Dame fans woke up awestruck. Headlines like “Friday the 13th Strikes Notre Dame” and aaron-lynch-leaves“Shooting Bottle Rockets at the Moon: The Aaron Lynch Saga” appeared online. South Florida Bulls‘ fans were aroused. Sports bloggers passed comments, “. . . sounds like he wants to be with his girlfriend.” Meanwhile, college football experts said that Notre Dame suffered a blow, losing one of its’ greatest pass rushers ever. Aaron Lynch listened to it all. He remained quiet.

A waiver was issued to start playing immediately with the Bulls. However, the NCAA denied Lynch’s request, instead forcing him to ride the pine pony one year with South Florida before taking to the field of action. There it was in bold print, but this time across South Florida newspapers: “WAIVER REQUEST DENIED, LYNCH TO SIT OUT FIRST SEASON WITH USF.”  Again, Lynch coped with the strife. Bulls’ fans patience was tested. An entire year of waiting! Nothing was pleasant about Aaron Lynch’s 19th birthday amid the jumble of faultfinding sports articles; all fingers pointed at Lynch.

Fast-forward to 2014 and we’re still thrashing Lynch. We share conversations about what he “Could’ve been” alongside former Irish defensive linemen Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III. Imagine 3 years experience guiding those two defensive comrades into battle. Surely Lynch would have received a 1st round draft grade had he rocked the blue and gold. An abundance of sports analysts have hypothesized these “Could’ve been” outcomes for Aaron Lynch, but have they ever mentioned his current success? Have they really tried to place themselves in Lynch’s cleats to think what he’s thinking aside from criticizing what he isn’t?

When Lynch was homesick, people hyped up his transfer as an “off-field issue.” Did they ever consider that Lynch (being the eldest child) was responsible for raising his other siblings alongside his single mother at home, and that he felt a homecoming return to lead his family was necessary? Did analysts ever contemplate that those long academically rigorous days at Notre Dame were over-burdensome to handle with his attention deficit disorder? Do avid football fans account for the fact that he could’ve been playing in the 2013 BCS National Championship with Notre Dame or made it to college football’s big show in 2014 had he not de-commited from the Seminoles? Could it have been possible that these questions haunted Lynch day after day, and we only made it worse by painting his “ideal situation” in some alternative past?

We were so quick to jump down this then 19 year old’s throat. For a guy with absolutely no drug abuse history, reckless demeanor or violent skirmishes, we decided to classify his situation as an “off-field issue.” Lynch’s transfer was evaluated with such harshness. If being homesick  is an “off-field issue” then there are a lot of athletes with problems. He was a young teen thrust into a legacy known as Notre Dame football. The bright spotlight that was his freshman year in South Bend transpired into a floodlight, pinpointing hypothetical problems as the cause for his transfer. And even when Aaron Lynch tried desperately to locate his bearings upon arrival at USF, his mind was still hampered by popular censure.

It’s always been a case of mind over matter for Aaron Lynch. Will he ever be able to dismiss the hapless media commentary and place himself into the correct mindset to grow on an even BIGGER stage, the NFL? His “lackadaisical play” is a direct result of this scapegoating. We never stood by Lynch enough to delve into his mind, his thoughts. All we did was allow his situation to snowball through the media in the most negative manner possible. Speculation is exactly what transformed our image of this great pass rusher.


49ers stand together, and they stand by Lynch. San Francisco knows what they’ve bought into. They want the 6’5″ 270-pound Lynch to take a deep breathe and let his actions speak louder than any words of the past. The time is NOW. He is the 49ers LYNCHPIN; the essential cog, that if all goes according to plan, the Niners will discover a wrecking-ball of a defender. But Aaron Lynch needs the 49ers guidance. He needs to be able to trust someone. And it would appear that with so many question marks surrounding the troubled Aldon Smith, the Niners are on the brink of revamping there pass rush; even if it involves a player who we shamed with “red flags”. Who knows? Perhaps the pot of the gold at the end of the rainbow does lie in San Francisco after all.

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