- As a Cowboys assistant in 2005, Anthony Lynn was the victim of a hit-and-run by a drunk driver, nearly killing him. Now, as he faces Dallas on Thanksgiving as Chargers coach, he recalls the help he received and the path that’s gotten him to where he is
We have reason to give thanks today—and Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, from me and everyone at The MMQB to you and your families—but I’m thinking one man in the NFL might be a little more grateful than most others.
He is Anthony Lynn, the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. He leads his team into Texas today to play Dallas in the Chargers’ first Thanksgiving Day game since 1969. Four months after man first walked on the moon, the Chargers, in their final year in the American Football League, traveled to the Astrodome to beat the Houston Oilers 21-17 on Thanksgiving afternoon.
This game is big for the 4-6 Chargers, for a few reasons. They have new life in the suddenly downtrodden AFC West, and could pull within 1.5 games of first place with a victory over the injury-ravaged 5-5 Cowboys. Three other reasons:
• Lynn is from the town of Celina, Texas, 40 minutes north of Dallas, and his family loved the Cowboys growing up. He loved the Cowboys too.
• Lynn coached running backs for Dallas in 2005 and 2006, on the staff of Bill Parcells.
• Lynn almost died on the last night of Cowboys training camp in 2005.
You read that right.
“If you ask me,” Lynn said on The MMQB Podcast With Peter King this week, “the number one thing in my life I’m thankful for is …”
“… my life.”
This was August 2005, in Ventura, Calif., near training camp for the Cowboys in Oxnard. Lynn and fellow Cowboys offensive assistant Todd Haley went out for pizza on this night off, and they were walking back to the car after dinner.
“Walking back to the vehicle, crossing the street, I got hit by a drunk driver, going 55, 60 miles an hour,” Lynn recalled. “He was about three times the legal limit. They said I flew 45, 50 feet into the air—”
Flew, yes. But not a clean flight. Haley watched it, and Lynn was cartwheeling through the air, and he landed on a car, breaking his fall.
“A Volkswagen,” Lynn said. “Totaled the Volkswagen I landed on.”
Lynn actually landed face-first on the VW’s side mirror, splitting his face open and causing blood to gush. He doesn’t remember a lot about the net few hours, but he does remember how much Haley cared, and how Haley cradled his head in his hands, telling him not to worry, while waiting for the ambulance to come. Haley talked to The MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas about this story when she reported for the Newark Star-Ledger, and Haley said he thought, “There is no way. This guy is dead.”
Both of Lynn’s lungs collapsed. He suffered temporary paralysis in both legs. He had to have facial reconstruction surgery. He needed knee and shoulder surgery. That first night, Haley stayed at Lynn’s hospital bedside. “The breathing was what I remembered,” Haley told Vrentas. “His nasal cavity was open, and it was an awful sound … Nobody survives that.”
Dallas owner Jerry Jones sent his plane to ferry Lynn’s family to California to be by his bedside. Jones provided the Lynns with a place to stay, and he sent meals to the family as Lynn recovered. Lynn was back on the job within two weeks, sore but coaching.
It’s not the defining night of his life. But recalling it, he gets emotional.
“It all happened so fast,” he said. “I didn’t really know what was happening. I just remember seeing these lights, then flying, and landing on this vehicle. Then I remember lying on the pavement. It was cold. I was going in and out.
“And I remember Todd—I will never forget Todd as long as I live—holding my head up, saying, ‘Hang in there, hang in there.’ But you know, I’m sure he thought I was dying, right there in the street.”
So today, Lynn might not relive the whole scene. But if he sees Jones, and he hopes he does, he’ll thank him profusely for being so good to him and his family. It’s been 12 years, but “I will never forget what Jerry did. Jerry will always have a soft spot in my heart.”
“Here we go,” Lynn said, “going back to Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, sort of my hometown. I have a lot of friends there. That’s kind of cool. That’s another thing I’m thankful for, how this went down with [playing] the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, and how it’s all gone full circle.”
So this is a great day, in many ways, for Lynn and the Lynn family. You can hear why he’s thankful, along with snippets of gratitude from people around the NFL, on my podcast.
One last thing: The driver, Sergio Sandoval, was apprehended and charged after the accident. He could have been sentenced to seven years in prison. As Vrentas reported, before sentencing, Lynn got a call from the prosecutor to find out his feelings about the case. Lynn asked if Sandoval had a family (he did, a wife and two children), and if he had any prior alcohol-related driving offenses (he didn’t). Lynn requested that the prosecutor give Sandoval the minimum.
Sandoval was sentenced to 300 days in county jail and five years’ probation—when it could have been much worse.
So if you’re in search of a rooting interest today in the second game of the NFL’s tripleheader, there’s Anthony Lynn, thankful for his life on this Thanksgiving Day.
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