Paxton Lynch: Zero to hero

Fourth down, five yards to the goal line and only 55 seconds left in the game. The ball is snapped and the Memphis offensive line comes crashing down.

“I was thinking ‘this is how it’s gonna end,’” Harrison Bingham (12), a devout Tigers fan, said. “But then he scrambled right, he broke two tackles, he put the ball in the endzone in a spot where only his man could get to it. The game was going to overtime. Paxton Lynch saved Memphis football.”

The grueling double overtime victory in the Miami Beach Bowl is symbolic of Lynch’s career as a quarterback. He always took a bad situation and made the best of it.

Coming out of high school, Lynch was a 2-star recruit from Florida no big name teams wanted, not even his state’s flagship, University of Florida. He received just one Division-1 scholarship offer: the University of Memphis. Even though Lynch was a menacing 6’7” and 245 pounds, most of what impressed Tigers’ former head coach Justin Fuente came from Lynch’s high school all-star game in which he threw 237 yards and earned the district MVP award.

“We were like, ‘Damn, this kid’s got some talent,’” Fuente said in an interview with Sports Illustrated.

After redshirting for one year, Lynch finally got the chance to start for Memphis over senior QB Jacob Karam in 2013. With Memphis only achieving a 3-9 record, the season was shaky at best, and many Memphis fans were in disgust with the decision to start Lynch over Karam. Coach Fuente did not budge and kept faith in Lynch.

“For Paxton, I think [losing] hardened him up a little bit, made him understand that success is fragile, that you have to put the work in,” Fuente said via the Commercial Appeal.

Over the next two seasons, Lynch’s hard work paid off. In 2014 and 2015, he threw for a combined 6,807 yards and 50 touchdowns, leading Memphis to two bowl games including a 9/9 passing performance at SMU in 2015 where he threw seven touchdowns to seven different receivers. With these efforts, Lynch attracted the attention of many elites and scouts alike, including Heisman winner Andre Ware.

“Paxton Lynch is [the] best [quarterback] I’ve laid eyes on in 2015 this far in the season,” Ware said during the nationally televised broadcast of the 2015 Memphis-Ole Miss football game.

With all of this attention and the talent to back it up, Lynch has been shooting up the NFL draft projections. Many mock drafts have projected him to go 15th to the Los Angeles Rams.

Even though Lynch and Coach Fuente have both moved on from the University of Memphis, Fuente believes the legacy Lynch left will remain.

“When we look back years from now,” Fuente said, “I believe the person that everybody will remember, and should remember, is Paxton.”