Former Washington State All-American Dan Lynch delivers memorable Morris Trophy keynote speech

DAN LYNCH, one of the greatest offensive linemen in Washington State history, traveled from his home in Eastern Europe to deliver the keynote address Thursday at the Morris Trophy Award luncheon in Seattle honoring the two best linemen in the Pac-12. The 1984 All-American didn't disappoint, offering insight to his near-fatal battle with Addison's disease and the life lessons he learned in the trenches at WSU. is pleased to share an abridged version of the Spokane native's speech here. He is pictured above (center, green tie) with old friends from his days at Washington State.

By Dan Lynch, WSU guard 1980-84 and 1984 Morris Trophy winner

A couple of months after receiving the Morris Trophy in January 1985, I was drafted by the Denver Broncos and they moved me from guard to center. During the pre-season I managed to break into the starting line-up with John Elway as my QB. But then things started going badly — horribly badly. 

I started losing weight – lots of weight. My skin turned orange, my hair turned white. By the time I was diagnosed with Addison's disease my weight had dropped to 170 pounds from 270. Obviously, I was out of football.

It took me two, hard years but I eventually recovered because I used the same training techniques and discipline we learned in football. My routine was to push myself to improve a little bit everyday and rely on my friends and family.

But is my story unique?

Of course not. EVERYONE has something they or someone close to them has to manage. Respect their battles because you don’t know what they have to deal with.

My big brother Pat, who played nose guard for the Cougars, was in medical school at the UW at the time of my health battle. He has always been impressive – on the field and off. Today he’s a doctor -- an orthopedic surgeon in Spokane –  and during that challenging time in my life he helped push me and get me back on my feet. He has always been my inspiration. Simply put: he makes everyone around him better.

The lessons I learned from football extended beyond my medical challenge. The lessons of football are transferable throughout your entire life.

Today, I manage a venture capital fund based in Central and Eastern Europe. We have a 12-company portfolio, much like a 12-game season. We need to have a winning record in order to keep going. For us, a national championship is when we can take our companies public. For my team, which consists of 12 different nationalities and languages, ranging from Warsaw to Prague to Bucharest and Istanbul, I try to build the character and instill the same team values and support that exists on any team.

But it's not easy to instill a team spirit with so many diverse cultures. The Poles think they’re the greatest country in Europe, the Hungarians think they are the smartest, the Romanians just want to be better than the Bulgarians and the Turks — the Turks just want to be considered a part of Europe.

Later in life, you will meet people who have never played team sports and only then will you begin to realize what a tremendous advantage you have in the way you look at the world.

I think most of you in this room can relate to this culture. It revolves around self-discipline ... commitment ... camaraderie ... team work ... achievement ... perseverance .... leadership … watching out for each other.. truly all the ingredients for success in any walk of life.

Now let me take you back to the 1984 season. On a chilly and drizzly Pacific Northwest day in Eugene, Oregon, I was part of an offensive line that beat the Ducks and helped Rueben Mayes, our star running back, break the NCAA record for rushing in one game: 357 yards.

Three-hundred-fifty-seven yards. And Oregon’s defense was good.

I had never been prouder standing shoulder-to-shoulder that day with my friends and fellow linemen: Jamie White, Mike Dreyer, Kirk Samuelson and Curt Ladines.

Several weeks later, I received one of the great personal honors of my life: winning the Morris Trophy.

The reason why the award is so special is this: It’s voted on -- not by coaches or the press -- but by your fellow linemen throughout the Pac-12.

To be honored is one thing.

But to be honored by your peers is the highest praise a person can receive, whether it’s football or any other walk of life. This wonderful, peer-vote method was conceptualized by the Tracy Morris Family – in honor of her father and as a result we‘re all here today celebrating what I truly think is the greatest honor a football player on the West Coast can receive.

As Cougar Coach Mike Leach said this past fall: If it weren’t for the linemen, the game of football wouldn’t exist at all.

Now, I would like to dispel a few myths about the award that were circulating out in the foyer earlier today.

1. Winning the Morris Trophy will not make you COOL. Nope, I won it over 30 years ago and I‘m still a nerd.

2. Winning the Morris Trophy will not make you FAMOUS – guys, if you wanted to become famous you’d have learned how to throw the ball, catch the ball, run with the ball -- or marry a Kardashian.

3. Winning the Morris Trophy will not make you a CHICK MAGNET -- look into the faces of your fellow linemen and I think you’ll know why.

So, what is the Morris Trophy all about?

To me, it can be broken down into seven parts.

First, DEDICATION AND SACRIFICE. It’s about recognizing that all the work you put in during the offseason is what separates you from the competition during the regular season.

Second, TEAM. It‘s about being part of something bigger than yourself, achieving more than one person could by themselves.

Third, BROTHERHOOD. It‘s about the guys next to you on the line, covering your back, working together, pushing you harder.

Fourth, THE MENTORS. It‘s about all the coaches and older players, from pee wee on up, who work with you over and over coaching you to make you better.

Fifth, YOUR FAMILY. It‘s about your parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters who supported you, believed in you, washed your clothes, drove you to practice, and sat in the rain cheering for you. And are there for you, win or lose.

Sixth, THE UNSUNG. It‘s about the trainer who held you together both mentally and physically through the twisted ankles, ice baths and self doubt, and the academic counselors who made sure you stayed on track towards your degree.

The seventh and final piece of the puzzle is this: The Morris Trophy is not an individual award. It’s a team award disguised as an individual award. Without the people who care about you -- your family, your friends, your teammates, your coaches, the broader school staff – our personal achievements are not possible.

Yes, the Morris Trophy is an individual award. But as you all can attest, there is no “I“ in the word football, or the word team. There is no “I“ in the word success, or the work congratulations.

Football is a “we“ game. And playing the line – at least playing it well – requires the ultimate “we.” That is what the Morris Trophy is all about – and it’s why I consider the ultimate award for a football player – and his entire team.

Thank you for your inviting me today to speak and congratulations to our 2015 winners.

NOTABLE: Lynch is one of four Cougars who have won the Morris Trophy. The others are Keith Millard (1983), Erik Howard (1985) and Chad Eaton (1994).  This year's winners are Stanford's Josh Garnett on offensive and Oregon's DeForest Buckner on defense. Last month, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Pac-12, Lynch was picked by CF.C to its All-Time Cougar Team; the other offensive linemen selected were Mel Hein, Mike Utley, Derrick Roche and Steve Ostermann.


Cougfan Top Stories