|Kevin Lynch went to Poland after finishing college last winter. (Southern Connecticut State)|
Starring role in Poland
He has thrown 26 touchdown passes in 10 games, led his team in the playoffs, and wears number 12.
But by his own admission, Kevin Lynch is not the Tom Brady of Warsaw.
“When I walk around the city with my football pads, the locals look at me like I have three heads, although a couple of fans have stopped and said hello,” said Lynch, a former three-sport captain at Medfield High who is putting together a stellar rookie season for the Warsaw Eagles of the Polish League Football Americansky, after a record-setting career at Southern Connecticut State University.
“The older people just have never seen the game or the equipment so it's always a good laugh when I see them on my way to practice,” he said.
Warsaw general manager Jacek Sledzinski met Lynch at the Football Championship Subdivision Senior Bowl in December in Myrtle Beach, S.C., a showcase attended by scouts for professional teams.
“We talked about the team, I traded e-mails with their head coach, and they offered me a contract,” recalled Lynch, who was named MVP of the event’s Division 2 vs. NAIA Senior Bowl.
“I thought it would be a a great opportunity to see another part of the world and continue playing football,” said the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Lynch. “I'm realistic that this may be my last season of football but if there's an opportunity to keep playing, I'll think about it long and hard.”
After Lynch fired three touchdown passes in a 38-0 win last Sunday, the Eagles (8-2) had clinched home field for the PLFA's Division 1 playoffs. The Eagles will have a week off, then host the Wroclaw Devils in the semifinals on July 1.
The championship game will be held July 15 at National Stadium in Warsaw, site of this month's Euro soccer championships.
The Eagles’ head coach is Phillip Dillon, a North Carolina native who previously coached in Germany for 20 years. He said Lynch is the best team player he has ever coached.
“We had a game this season where we wanted to air it out a little because we thought it would be great to get more passing in the game,” said Dillon in an e-mail, “but Kevin stepped up and said he would prefer to just run the football because he knew our running game would be more than enough to win.
“He could have put himself in the spotlight, but chose to let others have the chance. It's been a blessing to have him.”
Lynch directed Southern Connecticut to a 7-3 record last fall (6-2 in the Northeast-10 Conference) and graduated in December as third in the Owls program in career pass completions, attempts, and yardage.
He also ranks fifth in program history with 42 career touchdown passes, and holds five single game offensive records.
Lynch said the quality of football in Poland isn't quite up to the Division 2 level he played in college, because the sport is relatively new there.
The Eagles, Polish Bowl champs in 2006 and 2008, were founded in 1999 and were the first team in the country to use American players.
“There are five other Americans on my team, but the league rules allow for just two on the field at the same time,” said Lynch, who was interviewed via e-mail. “One of my biggest concerns was the language barrier, but everyone on our team speaks English and our plays are in English.”
In addition to his scoring tosses for Warsaw, Lynch has also rushed for three TD's and scored on a pass reception, of which he is most proud.
Since arriving in Poland three months ago, Lynch has visited Krakow and the memorial museum at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps, which he described as “incredibly sad.”
Lynch also toured Budapest with his girlfriend, Erin Conrod, and was sightseeing in Rome this week. His mother, Roberta, and twin sister, Kristin, visited him in April, and his father, George, saw him play earlier this month.
“It was great to see them all and I'm really grateful they made the trip,” said Lynch.
He's also stayed in touch with Erik Ormberg, his former defensive coordinator at Medfield High, and Rich Cavanaugh, his coach at Southern Connecticut, who offered words of encouragement before Lynch left for Europe.
“Kevin is the only player that I have known that played quarterback and middle linebacker as a senior,” said Ormberg. “He was like having a coach on the field. . . He loves the game.
“He was concerned about getting a job and situating himself professionally. Since he was a January graduate, I told him that the chance to play in Poland was like a semester abroad.”
“I'll always stay close to both of them,” said Lynch, who prepped for his new adventure by reading John Grisham's 2007 novel, “Playing for Pizza,” the story of a fictitious Cleveland Browns quarterback who moved on to play professionally in Italy.
“Although there are many differences here,” said Lynch, “there are also similarities, so I get a good laugh when I experience something that makes me think of the book.”
Because soccer and rugby are more popular in Poland, the Eagles play primarily on those fields. The team does not have its own locker room because other sports teams use the space.
“I carry my pads to and from practice, but the facilities are pretty good,” said Lynch, who has been most impressed with the fans.
“We average about 1,200 attendance at our home games and they're just unbelievable, really into the game,” said Lynch, who wears Brady's number 12 because the number 5 he wore in college was taken.
“So 12 it was,” said Lynch, who has given Eagles fans a lot to cheer about, even if his name isn't Brady.
Marvin Pave can be reached at email@example.com.