October 16, 2013

Loran Smith: Bulldogs tight end enjoys the season

— This time of year, with college football results falling hard on the emotions of American sports fans, it is not lost on us that we are also taking note of what is happening in baseball with the World Series coming up.

Then there is the harvest scene, which affects every landscape on the continent. You always conclude this is the most extraordinary time of the year. Fall is also hunting season, and the trout are running in North Georgia streams. Every outdoorsman’s cup is running over.

To top it off, television brings you the latest in football and the baseball playoffs at the end of your weekend days. Even with the days getting shorter, you can kill a few doves in the morning, fly fish in the middle of the day and then follow it by watching football or baseball on the big screen TV after the suns sets. What a time this is!

To that end, SportsCenter is the best friend of Arthur Lynch, the University of Georgia’s rugged senior tight end. He can keep up with his beloved Red Sox on ESPN, and with Georgia enjoying a winning season and residing in the rankings, he might even see himself on SportsCenter some Saturday evening. His first priority is helping Georgia win a championship, but all the while he is keeping an eye on the Red Sox as they work to make it to the World Series.

Lynch is developing his own impressive box score. He is fourth in receiving for the Bulldogs with 13 catches for 205 yards (an average of 15.8 yards per catch), including two touchdowns. For his career, he has 39 receptions for 653 yards and five touchdowns. (He leads all receivers in leaps-over-tacklers after spectacularly hurdling a would-be-Missouri tackler last Saturday.)

Life with the Bulldogs in Athens is good. However, there was a juncture when Lynch had to make a critical decision about his future. He could have stayed home and played for Boston College. There would have been easy access to Red Sox games — and the Celtics and the Bruins — to say nothing of lobster, clam and baked beans, menu choices that have long been a staple of his dietary life.

Instead, he opted to play in the Southeastern Conference, which offers the best in college football competition. It meant that an ancillary benefit would be winters that were less harsh, with no ice and snow. He could leave his top coat in Dartmouth, Mass., where he grew up.

Food would be an adjustment, however. First it was the sweet tea, but he discovered he liked it and so that one was easy. Developing a taste for Southern barbecue was not all that difficult, and he was OK with fried chicken, too, but he was surprised at those who ate it for breakfast.

The hunting options with his teammates is a big plus, and his spirits ratcheted up when he was invited to spend time at the lakes of the North Georgia mountains.

“So beautiful and clean,” he said.

His decision to come South has broadened his horizons, and he has become compatible with his cultural exposure. The central objective, however, has always been to play college football at a program that would provide the best opportunity to play in the NFL.

“I could not have done better when it comes to that than playing in the Southeastern Conference,” Lynch said. “At Georgia the tight end gets a lot of balls thrown his way, and with our offense I believe I will have the best possible training to allow me to play in the NFL, my dream since I was a kid.”

With an interest in history and politics, he will consider law school as an option, depending on what happens with the NFL.

He played as a freshman but realizes now he wasn’t ready. Redshirted his second year, he reach a point of frustration and considered transferring. He had developed affection for Georgia, but was concerned he was not making the progress he desired. His bags were packed when his cousin James Goodman called to tell him to “follow your heart.”

That was all Arthur needed. The bags were unpacked post haste. The work ethic was underscored once again. He would be the best he could be. Extra time in the weight room, due diligence in the classroom. He saw improvement and became re-energized.

“Artie comes to play,” said John Lilly, Georgia tight ends coach. “He is a good leader. He takes his blocking assignments seriously. He is smart and savvy. He is physical enough to block the defensive tackle and athletic enough to get open and catch the ball.”

Lynch wants this season to become memorable for the Bulldogs and the Red Sox.

If only the Braves and Boston could have met in the Series — Lynch might have found a way to see a game in Atlanta.

Loran Smith is a contributing columnist for The Daily Citizen. You can write to him at loransmith@sports.uga.edu.