At 6’7″ Paxton Lynch stands above the crowd just about everywhere he goes. After leading the University of Memphis football program through one of its best seasons ever, he’s now making his presence known in the NFL with some early signs that the grit he learned in the Bluff City will go a long way.
Despite moving thousands of miles away when he was drafted by the Denver Broncos, Lynch remains very much connected to what he calls his “second home” through charitable giving and relationships that developed while making headlines with the Tigers football team. In fact, Lynch was just in Memphis visiting a week before his interview with Choose901.
We got the chance to talk to him about what life has been like since leaving the Bluff City and the lessons he’s carried with him from Memphis. Below are excerpts from the phone interview.
Choose901: You’re starting to get some time over at the Broncos… what’s that like?
Paxton Lynch: Pretty exciting. Especially that first time I got my first start and then when I got thrown into the game against Tampa Bay… it was really cool to get that opportunity in front of my family.
I enjoy Memphis. It’s my second home and it’ll always have a place in my heart.
C901: Tell me about the transition from Memphis to Denver. What do you miss?
PL: I think the biggest thing is trying to get your routine. I know in Memphis, I had been there so long that I had kinda gotten into a pretty good routine. So, I’m just trying to figure out that routine. I just miss the city of Memphis and playing ball there and all my friends there. I’m glad where I am now and I’m glad I’m starting some games.
C901: Take us back in time a little bit. What was last year like for you and what does that tell you about Memphis?
PL: It was really exciting to see the culture of Memphis change because when I first got there, there weren’t that many people in stands and Tiger football wasn’t really that big a deal. It was really more about Tiger basketball. Whenever we started winning and the fans started coming out, supporting us, it was really cool to see the city kinda get behind us. We were a good team and we had a good run.
C901: What do you think you learned about Memphis through all of that?
PL: I always just think of Memphis as a city that’s always grinding. They call FedExForum the Grindhouse. Playing at Memphis with Coach Fuente, we would always outgrind people on the field and beat them that way. That’s kinda what I think about when I think about my tenure in Memphis.
I really just wanted to find a way to give back to the community in Memphis. MAM gave me the opportunity to do it through athletics. Now I’m getting involved with Bluff City Field Day.
C901: Having been in Memphis what would you tell people now who were thinking of moving to Memphis?
PL: I think it’s a great city. There are obviously some parts that are rougher than most parts but it’s a good place to be. I know one of my teammates, Drew Bishop, grew up in Memphis and he was able to show me the ins and outs and spots to go to. I love Memphis and actually was just visiting last weekend. So, I enjoy Memphis. It’s my second home and it’ll always have a place in my heart.
C901: You just visited last weekend? What did you do while you were here?
PL: I just came back to see my old roommate. We didn’t do anything crazy, we just hung out at the house.
C901: I bet you’re doing more of that these days with all of the demands in Denver.
It’s good to show you’re still involved with them and you still hold a place in your heart for them. For me that’s what it was about, having the opportunity to have an impact in those kids’ lives.
C901: Tell me about your connection to Memphis Athletic Ministries and Bluff City Field Day.
PL: I spent time with MAM and did an on-site visit with them. I had a chance to meet all of the guys and they were really nice guys. I really just wanted to find a way to give back to the community in Memphis. MAM gave me the opportunity to do it through athletics, as well. Teaching those kids about Christ through sports, that’s kinda what got me involved in it. Now that they’re involved with Bluff City Field Day, I’m pleased with that.
C901: Why should people be involved with Bluff City Field Day?
PL: I just think it’s important to get kids involved and getting them involved in sports. You never really know what can happen and what kind of passion you can have for sports when you get involved in it. I think when you start at a young age and let kids enjoy themselves in the game it can turn into something special.
C901: You said something earlier that really interested me and it’s something we see commonly, especially here in Memphis. You said that you felt like it was really important to give back to the kids at the MAM gyms. Where does that come from? What makes you feel that?
PL: To me, I just think, whenever I was a kid playing sports, whenever we met athletes or athletes came to this camp to talk to you, I think it has a big impact on kids’ lives. When you give back to them and give them the opportunity to get new gear or get whatever they need to help benefit those kids… it’s good for them and it’s good to show you’re still involved with them and you still hold a place in your heart for them. For me that’s what it was about, having the opportunity to have an impact in those kids’ lives.
C901: What would you say if you had a chance to talk to those kids right now? What would you tell them?
PL: I would tell them to chase their dream no matter what. If their dream is to be a professional athlete, then chase that dream and go do it. If their dream is to go be an astronaut, then go be an astronaut. Whatever you want to be, then go chase that dream. If you truly love it and you want to accomplish that, then I think you can no matter what someone tells you can or can’t do. You ultimately decide what you’re going to do and use that opportunity to glorify God through it.
C901: Tell me about how what you learned at U of M guides you in your day-to-day preparations as a professional athlete.
PL: Day to day, it’s a pretty full day. I’m up around 6:50 or 7. It’s practice and meetings until 4 and then come home and study a little bit and relax for the rest of the night. Then wake up and go do it again. When I was at Memphis, Coach talked to me about working and how you come to work every single day and it’s an all encompassing thing. You gotta come in every single day ready to work and get the job done.
C901: What have you been hearing about the Tigers from where you’re at?
PL: I’ve been watching them on TV and they’ve looked pretty good. I haven’t been able to see a game in person, but from what I’ve seen on TV they’ve been pretty good.
C901: What do you think generally about Memphis’ trajectory?
PL: I think it’s on the right track. I think the sky’s the limit for them. I think that we kinda got the ball rolling in the right direction with Memphis for the football program and it seems like they’re keeping it up, right now. I think that as long as they stay focused and keep working they’ll be alright.