If nothing else, Dan Lynch is a hall of famer at Washington State University on the strength of one enduring epigraph.
Yes, you know it. You’ve repeated it. You’ve taunted Husky friends with it – though, truly, it’s something of a compliment.
There are four important stages in your life. You’re born, you play the Huskies, you get married and you die.
“It just came out,” Lynch recalled Thursday. “I was talking to a reporter from the Lewiston Tribune, I think, and we were walking up after practice to the training table. I was just thinking about how huge that game is, how much you put into it, how it dominates your thinking all year long.”
The year was 1984, the week of Lynch’s last Apple Cup. But Sports Illustrated exhumed the line for publication a couple of years ago. It was the centerpiece clue of a Spokesman-Review crossword puzzle in 2000. Lynch heard that there’s a book of football quotations which features it prominently.
“It’s had a longer career than I had,” Lynch said.
Now that’s another good line – perfect for a roast, or even something sentimental like tonight’s induction dinner for the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame, which will add Lynch and eight other Cougars. They’ll also be recognized at Saturday’s game against Idaho at Martin Stadium.
The best thing about a school hall of fame is that it’s absent the endless yak over relative merit that accompanies every vote at Cooperstown or Canton. But consider this anyway: Only three Cougar offensive linemen have been first-team Associated Press All-Americans. One, Turk Edwards, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Another, Mike Utley, is a virtual folk hero.
The other is Dan Lynch.
Not that he was setting his sights all that high, as his coach, Jim Walden, delights in reminding everyone.
Walden presumed Lynch – being a Spokane boy from Lewis and Clark whose older brother Pat was already a mainstay on the defensive line – was one of those “slam-dunk” recruits. But on his trip to Pullman, Lynch confided at Sunday brunch that he’d only narrowed his choices to two: WSU, where he wasn’t sure he was good enough to play, and Montana.
“Tell you what,” Walden said. “If you eat breakfast and leave this house and you haven’t told me whether you’re going to Washington State or Montana – you’re going to Montana.”
Walden cackled at the memory.
“I’ll give him credit – he caught on pretty quickly,” he laughed.
And it led to remarkable memories – a bowl game, two All-Pac-10 teams, even two Senior Bowl appearances, a college football record (a rule change gave him an extra year’s eligibility). Nothing, of course, sticks out like beating the Huskies in 1982 to keep UW out of the Rose Bowl – Wazzu’s watershed game. Lynch especially recalled Tim Harris following an inside trap for a touchdown.
“My block,” he said proudly.
Walden never quite fathomed Lynch’s serial doubt over his ability, noting he was “as quick off the ball offensively as Keith Millard was defensively. He was on you right now. What is it that makes good players? It’s that first step.”
For Lynch, the same might be true of his post-football life.
Equipped with an MBA from the University of California, Lynch headed off to Eastern Europe as the Berlin Wall was coming down. He had a consulting job helping grease the privatization of the banking industry – what he presumed would be a “one-year adventure.” It’s going on 16 now – a life that has grown to include wife Hana, daughter Karolina and son Nikola and a managing partnership with a venture capital concern in Prague called 3TS.
But that first job, in Budapest, was an eye-opener.
“I get to the bank the first day and ask, ‘Where’s the computer so I can start my spreadsheets?’ ” Lynch remembered, “and they said, ‘We don’t have computers.’ The whole bank was on paper. So I called a guy I knew at the World Bank and got a $50,000 grant to computerize our bank.”
It didn’t get easier. There was, Lynch said, little food on store shelves and little English spoken. Care packages from his mother and brother were gold. Now, of course, the world is considerably smaller – and not only because of direct flights, cell phones and the Internet that brings the voices of Bob Robertson and Walden through his computer speakers.
“There’s a guy in business over there I recognized from WSU – we had accounting classes together,” Lynch said. “He now has a Czech wife, too. The woman who edits the English language paper, the Prague Post, went to Mead. And a couple years ago, the strangest thing happened.
“I live just south of Prague in a suburb, Jesenice – it’s like Liberty Lake to Spokane. There was a billboard in my neighborhood with a big photo, and it’s in the Czech language, for Champion sportswear. On the billboard was a football player. It was Mawuli Davis of the Cougs wearing No. 58 – my number.
“I drove by that and said, ‘No way.’ “
Call it a fifth stage in a Cougar’s life – the flashback. Dan Lynch will experience it again and again this weekend.
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