DeKALB – Jordan Lynch’s Heisman Trophy game of phone tag began at 4:45 p.m. Monday.
That’s when Northern Illinois football coach Rod Carey called his senior star quarterback and asked, if he wasn’t busy this weekend, if he’d have a problem jetting off to New York as one of six finalists for college football’s biggest individual honor.
Tag. You’re it Jordan Lynch.
Being the good son he is, Lynch decided to include his mother, Sheila, on the game. He called her cellphone while she was at work. No answer. Called again. Nothing. Called again. Still no mom. How’s a kid supposed to pass on what’s perhaps the biggest news of his life – or at least his college football career – if his mom’s cellphone battery is dead?
“There’s no point in having a cellphone these days,” Lynch said Tuesday. “I told my ma, I called her 100 times. So she kind of gets it for not picking up the phone and charging it.”
Lynch placed a call to his dad Jim’s cellphone. Nothing. No answer. Really? He tried again, his frustration with his parents’ cellphone habits quickly mounting. No one picked up.
“I don’t know what [my dad’s] deal was,” Lynch said.
By this point Monday, Lynch had tweeted that he was indeed heading to New York, a city he’s never visited, to vie for a trophy that no Mid-American Conference player – let alone one from NIU – had ever won. In his haste to break the news to someone – including any of his 7,247 Twitter followers – Lynch inadvertently preceded ESPN’s announcement by a good 10 minutes.
Jordan Lynch’s second straight record-breaking year with the Huskies landed him in the same room as players who play for bigger schools and in bigger conferences and in front of bigger fan bases. Lynch said Tuesday he’s excited to get to New York and rub elbows with the Heisman elite. He wants to meet Bo Jackson, who won the award in 1985.
He’s really excited to see New York. He wants to travel around the city on a bus with his family. During his news conference Tuesday morning, Lynch even mistakenly thought Rockefeller Center was a chapel before quickly being corrected by an athletic department spokeswoman.
Whether Lynch is really among college football’s elite remains up for debate among those who wonder whether the talented quarterback would put up such mind-blowing numbers if he played in a bigger conference like the one his bigger name, bigger school Heisman brethren do on a regular basis. But this much is true. Lynch isn’t shying away from the competition.
“I’m going there to win,” Lynch said. “I’m not going there to come in last or to second place. I’m going there to win.”
Lynch’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing since Carey called Monday afternoon. Among those who called Monday night was former NIU coach Jerry Kill, now at Minnesota, who was out recruiting when the announcement was made and didn’t learn that Lynch was heading to New York until about 11 p.m. He then proceeded to call Lynch’s phone 12 times. The two finally spoke Tuesday morning.
Kill, who offered Lynch his NIU scholarship, knows what Lynch’s Heisman candidacy means not only for Lynch, but for a program that remained in line for a BCS Bowl berth until losing to Bowling Green on Friday night in the MAC Championship Game.
Lynch said Tuesday he would trade the trip to New York in a minute for a chance to play in the FiestaBowl. The loss – and trip to the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego that accompanies it – admittedly still stings.
But being recognized for a body of work that has landed him among college football’s best and that keeps NIU in the national spotlight is sure to be a weekend Lynch will never forget. Lynch said the enormity of the accomplishment may not even hit him until he’s on a plane to New York. Hopefully, his mom keeps her phone charged.
• Jeff Arnold is a sports reporter with The Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @NWH_JeffArnold.