DeKALB – Jordan Lynch had a decision to make.
Should he go back for his third season as a backup quarterback for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League or should he take the job as the running back coach for Northern Illinois?
At 26-years-old, he decided to walk away from his playing days.
"I was kind of on the fence with everything and I talked to some people and weighed my options," Lynch said at Northern Illinois' pro day on Friday morning. "I made a pros and cons sheet. It came down to, getting into (coaching) this young is a good deal. It's tough to walk away, but being 26 and getting a full-time job at the place I had some of my greatest memories at, it's hard to turn down."
After finishing up his second season with the Eskimos, Lynch came to Northern Illinois in January to temporarily help with the quarterbacks – a position he joked that made him an "intern." The Huskies had some vacanies to fill on the coaching staff – Kelton Copeland went to Iowa and Bob Bostad left to Wisconsin – and Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey floated the idea for Lynch to join as the running backs coach.
Northern Illinois officially announced on Wednesday that Lynch joined the staff.
In his two years in Edmonton, Lynch was 6 for 9 with 48 passing yards and a touchdown and rushed it 53 times for 228 yards and five touchdowns – including the game-winning score in the 2015 Grey Cup. While he had coaches tell him that when he's done playing to give them a call, everybody assumed he would return to Canada, he said.
However, Lynch said the time as a backup with the Eskimos forced him to come to the realization that maybe his chance to get back to the NFL had come to an end.
"When I got done with my last season in the CFL, I planned on coming back for another year," Lynch said. "I planned on playing my third season until this hit me in the face and I started thinking about it, like, the CFL has never been a dream for me. I always wanted to play in the NFL, that's been the dream of anybody who played in the States.
"That opporunity wasn't knocking anymore and it was hard to come to the realization of it. Being in the CFL and being a back-up, I felt like I was better than that. My two years in the CFL were great being a role player and all that and in the Grey Cup, but this is too good to pass up."
Lynch, who was a part of the Chicago Bears primarily as a running back in the 2014 preseason before being released, admitted the decision to hang up the cleats was a difficult one.
"Playing football my whole life, I'm not going to say it's the only thing I know how to do, but it's one of the things I know how to do really well. For me to walk away, it was tough. I'm not going to lie, it was tough," he said. "I think the first year will be hard a little bit. I think I'll miss it a lot the first year, but after that, just like anything, it takes time to get over it."
Now Lynch returns to the place where he became a star.
During his two years as the starting quarterback for the Huskies, he was a two-time Vern Smith Leadership Award winner in the Mid-American Conference, was a first-team All-American, led Northern Illinois to the Orange Bowl and finished in third place in the 2013 Heisman Trophy voting.
His image – along with several trophies that he helped the Huskies win – is plastered across the Yordon Center.
"My name is all around this building, so that probably helps out," Lynch said. "I like it, to be honest. I like it, not for a cocky reason. I like it because everytime I see it and everytime people see it and people who know me know that I put my work in. They know I did things the right way and that's the only way you're going to get up on that wall is do things the right way. It's a motivation factor for some of those kids who want to be up on that wall one day or want to go on to bigger and better things."