In the community of Town Creek, Alabama, football is more than an activity. It’s a way of life. One might go so far as to say that learning to play the game came before taking your first steps. It was an activity not limited to one particular season. Instead, for young men growing up in that area, it was played 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Once they come of age, their skills are refined at the local high school, Hazelwood. Names like Antonio Langham, the Goode family, Chris Hood, Montoya Madden, and Tarrant Lynch are just a few of its most distinguished alumni. However, for many in that small community and across Crimson Tide nation, Tarrant’s star would burn the brightest.
After running for 165 yards, 4 TDs, and 2 two-point conversions in a victory over Georgiana, Lynch found himself being pursued by nearly every major school in the country. According to the “Goode” rule, however, only one team was allowed to recruit athletes from that surrounding area. That was the University of Alabama. “I think what veered a lot of schools away from athletes that went to Hazelwood, Courtland, and Colbert County was they thought Alabama had ‘locks’ on them because of all the Goodes that went to Bama,” Tarrant said. With this in mind, he still entertained an offer from Auburn. This is particularly intriguing because he grew up a fan of the Tigers. Much to their dismay, Lynch would choose the destination more common to players of that region. This came after a visit to Tuscaloosa. The Tide quite literally turned him. Its proud traditions and sense of familiarity caused him to spurn his once favorite team. “I think it was the Alabama tradition that made me wanna play for UA. I think it was once I made my visit there, it felt like home. I knew a lot of guys down there like Clyde and Pierre [Goode] and all their brothers. I knew them and Antonio [Langham] was going down as well. It just felt like home,” Tarrant stated.
Not only did his choice lead him to a tradition-rich school, but it provided him with a unique opportunity to play for a legendary coach, Gene Stallings. The former Bear Bryant disciple was just beginning his tenure when Tarrant arrived. Although the head coach, Stallings was much more to Tarrant and his teammates. “He knew how to talk to you, more like a father figure out there. He took everything seriously. He was a great guy. He motivated you. If he was not getting 100%, then he wasn’t going to play you,” Lynch said. That went beyond the football field. Coach Stallings invested in Tarrant and all of his teammates. There was always the push to be the best on the field, in the classroom, and in life. If something ever seemed off or not right, Coach Stallings would make it a point to dig deeper. It was more than winning titles and accolades. To Gene, it was about pouring life into these young men. “He pushed you. He knew if you were slacking even in the classroom or at home. He would always ask, you know, if something was going on. He was a caring guy,” Lynch said.
Coincidentally, Tarrant believed his finest moment as a member of the Crimson Tide came his senior season because of Gene Stallings. On a Friday before heading to Knoxville to play rival Tennessee, there was a misunderstanding on Lynch’s part as to their time of departure. He thought the plane was going to leave at 11:30 a.m., but instead the flight left at 11:00 a.m. Tarrant had missed the flight. He quickly discovered this when he arrived with his luggage to the airport. He felt horrible. Luckily, some of the assistant coaches returned from recruiting trips and he was able to secure a ride with them. They arrived in Knoxville at 10:30 p.m. that night.
That next morning, a feeling of dread overcame him as he went to the scheduled team meeting for breakfast. Stallings remained silent throughout the meal. No words had been spoken between the two yet. However, Lynch felt his coach’s gaze locked onto him as he took each bite of his meal. Although quite the large, muscular player, Stallings’ stare reduced him to feeling an inch big. Deciding he could avoid his impending lashing no longer, Tarrant walked the green mile over to Gene’s table. He had to make things right. “I just got up, went over there, and sat down. I told him that I came to apologize for everything. Man, he ripped me a new one. That told me right there that I had to make up for everything. So, I went on to have one of my best games ever,” Tarrant stated. He made good on this claim throughout the contest by delivering punishing blocks and much needed yards during critical moments. Anyone that had the misfortune of venturing into his path that day quickly regretted it. This helped fellow teammate Sherman Williams post a total of 146 rushing yards on 26 carries. Due to his Coach Stallings-inspired performance, Tarrant Lynch and the Crimson Tide defeated a Peyton Manning-led Volunteers team in a slugfest 17-13.
Tarrant Lynch’s time with the University of Alabama was remarkable. Personally, the former running back-turned-fullback was responsible for 859 yards rushing with 5 touchdowns as well as 518 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. He had an unmatchable grit and toughness that inspired others. In his first season, during a game against Vanderbilt, he tore his ACL, but continued to play. No amount of pain would stop him from achieving his goals. He was an inspiring jack-of-all trades at his position. Whatever the Crimson Tide needed at that moment, Lynch provided with a great fire and tenacity. He was masterful in the most critical games; especially against Auburn, Georgia, and Tennessee. His effort also helped lead the team to 3 straight SEC Western Division titles, the 1992 SEC Championship, the 1992 National Championship, and a 1995 Citrus Bowl victory over an Eddie George and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Add to that, he was also part of one of the winningest classes in school history.
Despite his accomplishments with Alabama, Lynch went undrafted in the 1995 NFL Draft. This was very disappointing after having such a great collegiate career and posting what he felt was a commendable NFL Combine performance. However, he was granted an opportunity as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins. Although undrafted, he was in a great position not only to make the team but also be a significant contributor. This was due to the fact that the Dolphins were in desperate need of someone to fill a depleted roster spot at his position. Another perceivable advantage was the chance to be coached by another former Alabama legend, Tony Nathan. However, he would gain no favors from the former Tide star. “He was a cool guy, but he had a job to do. So, there wasn’t any favoritism. I understood that and definitely didn’t want anything handed to me. As a matter of fact, we never really talked Alabama football. He taught me some of the ins and outs of what I needed to do and how I needed to do it. At the end of the day, I had a job to do,” Tarrant said of Nathan.
Lynch’s new NFL journey would unfortunately come to an abrupt close due to breaking his foot while at home during an off period. He suffered the injury when playing basketball as a means to stay in shape. He tried to return to the Dolphins, but was released shortly before the start of preseason. However, this departure from his NFL dreams would mark the beginning to the next chapter of his life. His entire world was about to be turned upside down.
Shortly after that incident, Tarrant received the horrifying news that his mother had cancer. Suddenly, football was an afterthought. The only thing that mattered was getting his mother well. Tragically, in 1996, his mother passed away. The once proud, strong woman who often times was both mother and father to Tarrant and his siblings was called home to glory. She was the source of strength that many in his family leaned on. Although she was in a better place, free from the confines of cancer, it was still tough on him and his family. “It was rough. Real rough. Not just on me, but I had a younger brother and sister that it was rough on too. Any time you lose your mother, that’s rough,” Lynch said.
Rather than allowing his mother’s passing to defeat him, Tarrant saw it as a call to action. Just as his mother before was before him, he had to be vessel of strength for his family. It was time for him to take the ball that was her legacy and guide those around him to victory. “So, me being the eldest, I had to look out for them. I had a younger brother and sister that I had to make sure was alright on top of being married and having my daughter,” Lynch stated. Life lessons his mother had etched on the walls of his heart of “family is everything” and “always give 110%” became his driving force. That coupled with an unbreakable desire to provide a great life for his oldest daughter kept him motivated. He didn’t waver. Just like he did countless times on the gridiron, he bowed up, lowered his head and drove relentlessly through the opposition life threw at him.
You may be asking yourself, “how was Tarrant able to carry that along with receiving the healing that he needed?” The answer is God. His faith in and relationship with God served as his source of recovery. “God definitely brought me through it. He made me a lot stronger. He says that He will never put more on your plate than you can carry. He brought me through it and made me a lot stronger, more focused, and wiser,” he stated. In addition to that, it gave him a brand new perspective in life. He realized that our time on earth is temporary. It must be cherished and utilized to serve others. “You can’t take anything for granted. Your home is in heaven. We are just here visiting. You have to make the best of it while you are here. Look out for your family. Raise your kids and do the best that you can. I try to make sure everyone is treated right. I will do anything I can to help anyone out,” Tarrant proclaimed.
What a lesson in selflessness God is using through Tarrant Lynch to teach us. In the face of trials and hardship, he looked to God and serving others as his source of healing. When was the last time that we were able to put ourselves aside, during adversity or not, and truly pour life into others like that? It says in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down their life for their friends.” Tarrant embodies this verse completely. He is allowing God to use him giving of his life, his time, his blessings, and his love so that others may have life. By doing so, he is honoring the teachings of not only his mother, those taught by Gene Stallings as well. I think we all can agree that he’s done a tremendous job. Although many athletes from Hazelwood High School and Alabama became stars, because of this, it is Tarrant Lynch who burns the brightest.
I am a 2003 graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in Exercise Science. While at the Capstone, I served as a student assistant with the head strength and conditioning coach of the Crimson Tide football team. I have competed in both powerlifting and bodybuilding for several years. In addition, I have served athletes and people through the arena of personal training. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I am a passionate fan of Alabama, but do not make other fan bases miserable because of it. College football has my heart first, but I cover all areas of sports. Follow me on Twitter: @justinriley7!