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Anthony Lynn Fulfills 25-Year Vow to Finish College Degree

It's tradition for a head coach to address the team on the first day of the offseason program.

Anthony Lynn's message to the Bolts in April was quite profound. 

While he's their head coach, he also cares deeply about his players as human beings, and delivered an emotional message to the team encouraging them to enrich their lives outside of football during the offseason.

He then told his team something very few outside his family knew – that he'd spent the past year earning his degree at UNLV.

Lynn was the first member of his family to ever attend college, but he fell six hours shy of graduating as he signed as an undrafted free agent with the Denver Broncos.

On Saturday, 25 years after leaving Texas Tech, Lynn will don a graduation gown, march across the stage and receive his diploma.

"Football's always been my number one priority, and sometimes that's good and sometimes that's bad," Lynn explained.  "I chose football over my education then.  I did that a few years later when I had the chance to go back.  I chose football over education.  This time, I thought no more excuses.  I need to go back and get it done.  I started investigating it in 2014 (and) I didn't do it in 2015 because I was applying to be a head coach.  I didn't want to do both.  2016, the same thing.  2017 I said it's now or never…and then I became a head coach!"

To put into perspective how meaningful it was for Lynn to get his degree, Hunter Henry wasn't even born when he left Texas Tech early to enter the NFL. 

Perhaps more than anyone, finding out that his head coach prioritized earning his diploma resonated in a major way.  In fact, Henry is now also in the process of earning his degree after leaving Arkansas before graduating.

"It's really cool, especially sometimes I think you can get lost as it can be all ball," Henry explained. "It's all about football sometimes.  This just shows that Coach Lynn cares about us off the field and not just as players, and is showing what he talks about with us.  He's doing it, too. That's huge.  It gives me reassurance in case I have to go on campus during an offseason.  I'm four or five classes away.  I know he'll support me, and that means a lot."

Henry wasn't the only one inspired by Lynn's determination to earn his degree.

"I think it's dope!" said Casey Hayward.  "I was the same way because I didn't have my degree right away, so I had to make sure I would go back to get it for all the people I promised.  I'm sure he's the same way. But for someone his age to still go back and get it, and confirm the things he said to his mom and those promises, it's awesome that he'd go back and get it.  That shows a lot and that you can do whatever you want no matter what age you are.  I have so much more respect for him, because for all he's accomplished and what he's done, at his age, he didn't have to go back and get that degree.  He's won Super Bowls, but I'm sure he can look back now and say this is one of the biggest accomplishments he's had."

"The fact he's doing this even though he's a head coach and accomplished so much, I think it's great," added Tyrell Williams.  "I'm sure he made a promise to his mom, and so for him to make sure he fulfilled that promise is really cool.  I've seen Coach Lynn as a very well-rounded person. There's more to life than football, and this was important to him.  It's awesome."

Going back and getting his degree is something Lynn always wanted to do.  However, as he climbed the NFL coaching ladder, it simply never seemed to be the right time. Yet late in his tenure with the New York Jets, he had a meaningful heart-to-heart with good friend Dave Szott, who also worked in the team's player development department.  Szott explained that he finished his degree years later, and for Lynn, the conversation drove home just how important it was to him to get his diploma.

"It was 2014 and I was with the Jets, and Dave Szott, a really good friend of mine, talked about how he went back 15 years later and how he finished," Lynn explained.  "His wife was with him, and I remember she looked at me and she said, 'Coach, you should do the same.  There is no reason why you shouldn't do that.  No excuses.'  That kind of gave me a little push and inspired me to go back."

So, in the spring of 2017, right after being hired as the Bolts' head coach, Lynn began taking online courses. He'd get home after a long day of practice, pick up his books and begin his class.  Lynn obviously couldn't go to school in the fall in the midst of the NFL season, so his professors worked with him to complete those courses throughout the summer.  The majority of Lynn's coursework took place online, but he did have to go to UNLV's campus in recent months to meet with professors.

Most recently, Lynn had to write a 30-page capstone project, focusing on a topic that hit close to home.

"I started out just doing some research in the medical (field) around concussed athletes, and the things that the National Football League is doing to make our league safer.  I kind of feel like that NFL has been under attack the last few years. Young mothers with their sons, and things like that."

While researching he topic, one subject in particular emerged that caught Lynn's eye.

"The more I researched, the topic of mental health kept coming up," he said.  "The more I learned about mental health, it gave me an awareness (that) mental health is broader than what I thought. Things like identity crisis.  Things like boredom with athletes post-career, and how that can lead to other sicknesses.  And sometimes failure.  So that's probably the biggest thing I learned, (so) my capstone project was about athletes transitioning to post-career and how to be more successful in doing that."

Finally, Lynn finished earlier this spring, earning his degree in interdisciplinary studies.   What makes graduation day even more fitting for Lynn is that he will receive his diploma on Mother's Day weekend.

"I was the first person in my family to go to school," he said.  "My mother sat there and watched my son's graduation.  She watched my daughter graduate.  I just think she's going to enjoy watching her son graduate.  It will be a good Mother's Day present, I hope!"

When Lynn decided to earn his degree, he never had any intention of walking in the graduation ceremony.  However, after talking with his counselor, he had a change of heart.

"When I told her what my plans were, she just assumed that I was walking the whole time.  I never assumed that I was walking.  The disappointment on her face when I told her I wasn't coming, it was tough.  So I thought about it, and she made me rethink it. I decided to walk because if it could inspire one person, then it's worth it.  Dave Szott inspired me, so if I can inspire one, then it's worth it."

Now that he is walking, Lynn noted how meaningful it is that both of his families will be in attendance.  Not only will his immediate family be there to show their support, but numerous members of the Chargers are flying out as well.

"My mom will be there.  My daughter will be there.  My son is working, so he won't be there.  Dean and Susie (Spanos) are coming (along with others from the Chargers).  So, family.  That's my family."

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