Ruth Thompson remembers being a star when she first met Chargers coach Anthony Lynn at the July 4 annual “Red, White and Boom” parade in McKinney, Texas, six years ago.
Thompson then prepared to open Hugs Cafe, a nonprofit that trains and employs adults with special needs. Lynn’s niece, Marty Cole, was training to work in the cafe.
Lynn attended the parade in his hometown because Cole was riding the Hugs Cafe float. A Denver-born rabid Broncos fan, Thompson was eager to meet Lynn, as he played running for the Broncos when they won back-to-back Super Bowls in the late 1990s.
After some nice chatter from Broncos, Lynn told Thompson that he had doubts about whether Hugs Cafe would be successful.
“He asked me a lot of questions about how we were going to employ adults with special needs,” Thompson said in a phone interview Thursday. It was something that was new to him. He wasn’t sure it would work, and he asked me a lot of good questions about how we were going to do this. I think I had good answers for him and we just had a really good conversation. “
The Chargers are familiar with Lynn’s blunt honesty, and “Hard Knocks” viewers were introduced to his straightforward personality this summer.
Most people dare not question an idea that has the potential to create a lot of good, but Lynn is about proper execution, and when his beloved niece is involved, he will make sure it is done correctly.
“He asked all the questions, and even more so than many of our original donors, and rightly so,” Thompson said. “They don’t want to donate to something that’s going to fail.”
Hugs Cafe did not fail. Next month it will celebrate its five-year anniversary and there is talk of opening a second café. Cole will remain an employee there and has had many roles from greeter, server and working in the kitchen.
Thompson declined to say she had proved Lynn wrong, because her reactions during the parade brought him on board with her vision. Lynn has donated to Hugs Cafe and raised money through his Lynn Family Foundation.
Lynn’s talent for asking tough questions and long-term visions of success are reasons the Chargers love their fourth-year head coach.
General manager Tom Telesco and team owner Dean Spanos said this summer they are following Lynn’s lead. He has become the face of the franchise, cementing this off-season as one of the most outstanding head coaches in the league by simply being himself, a man of action and empathy – and as a black man.
Lynn, one of three black head coaches in the NFL, was at the forefront of the fight against systemic racism and police brutality amid the nationwide out-of-season protests. He shared face-to-face encounters with racism, attended protests, pushed for change, encouraged people to vote, and invited city leaders to speak at his team meetings.
Lynn has more than prepared the Chargers for a soccer game on the way to Sunday’s season opener in Cincinnati.
What happens before kick-off on the sidelines and during the national anthem will be in the same spotlight as the game, at least for week 1, as many expect protests against systemic racism and police brutality.
But Lynn occasionally shrugged when asked this week what he and his team planned to protest social injustice. Lynn probably doesn’t want this to be a weeklong trend where people forget about week 2. He wants solutions that have a lasting impact, nothing forced or rushed.
“Sometimes it’s hard to listen to those young men pouring out their hearts and I can’t help them right away, and this will take some time,” Lynn said last month after his team had an emotional discussion and decided to cancel. . their SoFi Stadium scrimmage as a way to protest. “I’m doing it for the long term. This organization is doing it for the long term.”
Jason Hill isn’t surprised that Lynn is making an impression in the NFL community. He is well aware of his non-stop actions to create change.
Before coaching a game for the Chargers, Lynn had been looking for ways to help the Los Angeles community in 2017. Lynn’s real estate agent suggested attending Hill’s event.
Hill is the founder of Young Warriors, a mentoring program for boys between the ages of 8 and 18. Many of the boys are black and latino who are raised by single mothers.
Lynn had a connection to Hill’s cause because he was raised by his single mother, Betty Jackson, in Texas.
“Anthony grew up in a similar situation, but had a wonderful mother who guided him through things,” said Hill. So we are just connected at a foundation level, a deep level. We had several conversations after that and he just popped in and we’re grateful we have him. “
Hill answered the same kind of tough questions Thompson received. Lynn has donated and raised money for Young Warriors. Lynn and the Chargers have met Young Warriors boys and attended schools affiliated with the program. Hill said Lynn plans to meet more kids through Zoom conversations.
Hill and Lynn have developed a friendship. They went to Lynn’s vacation home in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, last year to play golf.
“He wants unity between everyone,” Hill said of Lynn. “We were in Mexico together. The way he treated the people there just gave extra tips, extra kind and so loving. I remember saying to him, “You’re a good guy, Anthony.”
Lynn and Hill hope to open a Young Warriors program in McKinney one day. Thompson is hopeful about the next opening of Hugs Cafe near Lynn, Los Angeles.
It’s always a long-term vision with Lynn and those closest to him. The rest of the country is beginning to realize how Lynn and the Chargers work.
“That’s authentic to him,” Hill said of Lynn. “It’s not a show. He’s not trying to look good. That’s just who he is.”
HOW TO HELP
To donate, volunteer or mentor Young Warriors, visit Youngwarriors.org.