John Lynch shows he still has a soft spot for Denver

DENVER (AP) Sporting an orange tie and a blue shirt, John Lynch made it clear he hasn't severed his ties to the Denver community after joining the San Francisco 49ers' front office.

''We want to keep this going, that's the plan,'' Lynch said Friday following the 19th annual John Lynch Salute The Stars awards luncheon at Sports Authority Field.

Lynch said there was never any thought of shuttering his foundation's connection to the greater Denver area after he left the broadcast booth to join the 49ers in a surprise move over the winter.

Nor did he have a problem hosting his event, with Denver coach Vance Joseph as the featured speaker, at the Broncos' stadium, where he played from 2004-07 and where he joined the teams' Ring of Fame last October.

''Not from my side. I think it was raised at some point through someone at the Broncos but, as usual, John Elway stepped in and Joe Ellis and said, `Listen, this is silly. This is about the kids in this community.' And anything that was awkward, hopefully we've gotten rid of that,'' Lynch said. ''Because I think you see what it is: it's about these kids and much more than where I'm working.

''Like I said there (on stage), I'm wearing orange because ... the Broncos will always hold a special place in my heart and in my family's heart. So, I think in life you can do more than one thing at once and we plan to do that.''

Lynch counts Elway, a fellow Stanford alum, as one of his best friends and following his hiring in San Francisco, he sought Elway's permission to hire Adam Peters, who was the Broncos' director of college scouting, as his vice president of player personnel.

In 2013, Lynch served a sort of apprenticeship under Elway, attending the NFL combine with him and sitting in with the Broncos' GM during the draft.

''Yeah, he's been awesome. He's a great friend and he exposed me to the business,'' Lynch said. ''I think the biggest thing, when I had this opportunity presented to me really quickly and had a short, finite time to give them an answer, he kind of gave me the confidence: `You know what, you can do this, just like anything else. You can be great at it.' And hearing that from him kind of emboldened me to feel that way.

''He helped me out in the beginning but now it's like anything else, we're competing. Fortunately, we're not in the same division and all, but he's been great. He's one of my best friends in life and we understand that we both have to serve our organizations well but we can also continue to be great friends and that's what we are.''

The Broncos and 49ers face each other in the preseason on Aug. 19 and the teams will hold joint practices for the second straight summer leading up to that game.

''That's where relationships come in handy and we're looking forward to the work,'' Lynch said.

The John Lynch Foundation, which honors student-athletes and students with special needs, awarded more than $118,000 in scholarships at the luncheon, bringing to $1.1 million what Lynch and his wife, Linda, have awarded in Colorado and Tampa Bay, where he spent the first 11 seasons of his 15-year playing career.

DRAFT GRADE: Lynch got high grades for his first draft , which included a half dozen trades, none bigger than when he swapped the second- and third-overall picks with the Chicago Bears, then got the player he wanted in Solomon Thomas along with three extra picks.

''When the Bears kept expressing interest and the deal kept getting better, I thought it either was for Myles Garrett or Solomon Thomas,'' Lynch said. ''And people in the building who have been around for a while said you don't make that big a move unless it's a quarterback. And so we started thinking particularly draft day when the deal really got better that this was for a quarterback. We thought (Mitch) Trubisky would be the guy.

''And so ultimately a lot of people have given Ryan Pace and the Bears a hard time about that. My perspective is they got what they wanted; we got what we wanted. And if Mitchell Trubisky becomes that franchise quarterback, I think it's worth a 3 and a 4 and another 3.''

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Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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