First off, let me say this to Zach and Arthur: I’m sorry I put “B.F.F.” in the title. That’s a little soft on my part, and I’m sorry for any embarrassment it could cause you in the future. Now that’s out of the way: carry on, everyone.
The year was 2008, and a much younger Arthur Lynch and Zach Mettenberger were just small fish in the big pond that was the University of Georgia football program. Fast forward through 38 combined wins in the toughest conference in college football, and both, after being selected in the fifth- and sixth-rounds of the NFL Draft, are back in a similar role.
I sat down with the two – on my cell phone, but I feel like all good interviews start with “I sat down with” so I went with that – to explore how their roller coaster ride that started in Athens, Georgia has landed them both with futures as bright as any rookie that just entered the NFL.
The two became instant friends when they stepped foot on campus, and the chemistry was apparently evident on the field in their first spring game as well.
“When I met Zach, I had no idea I was meeting my brother. When he was asked to leave the program (Georgia), no one was hurt more than me. I cared about him like part of my family, but I knew that success was in his future.” Lynch went on, “It was wild seeing him in an LSU uniform, but I really did want the best for him and knew he would make a lasting impression in Baton Rouge.”
A lasting impact indeed – Mettenberger was 19-6 as a starter at LSU, and was one of the better quarterbacks, statistically speaking, to put on a Tiger uniform in a long time. His performance at LSU lead to his selection by the Tennessee Titans with the No. 2 pick of the sixth-round (178 overall). Lynch was the No. 15 (pick of the fifth-round (155 overall) to the Miami Dolphins.
The two both had expectations of being drafted higher, but gave the generic response of how that are both “greatly appreciative” (they both said that exact same word), to be with their respective organizations. I poke fun, but they certainly are greatly appreciative.
However, both seemed to get a little more serious – they are pretty funny guys – when I asked if they had a small chip on their shoulder for being picked that late.
“My mindset is the right mindset whether I was the No. 1 pick of the draft or the last pick,” Mettenberger said. “I knew, and still know, that wherever I got drafted I was going to do everything I could to get on the field. I don’t know if it will happen or not, but I’m pushing myself to be great.”
Lynch was more abrupt with his feelings, “I do have a chip on my shoulder that teams passed up on me to pick a lot of other guys. However, I’m thrilled and humbled for my opportunity in Miami. What they got is a hard-nosed player that will give everything be has for the betterment of this team and organization.”
Being drafted in the fifth- and sixth-round is certainly no guarantee for a spot on a team. Hell, there isn’t much guaranteed in the NFL at any time. That being said, in an off-season where veterans are often worried about not getting hurt, and rookies are just fighting to be on the 53-man roster, teams really get a chance to give some of the potential diamond in the rough late draft picks a great opportunity – an opportunity these two buddies seem to be already capitalizing on.
Some are projecting Mettenberger to not only make the team, but also saying he is a long-shot candidate to start for the Titans. Granted, even as a backup, with Jake Locker’s recent injury problems, it is very possible there will be reps to be had.
Lynch, as a fifth-round pick, is the first rookie within the Dolphins organization to already sign on the dotted line, a four-year, $2.4 million contract that includes an $185,000 signing bonus.
I asked “Artie” as I think I have permission to call him, how he is going about making the good impressions with the Dolphins. He answered: “My goal everyday is to be seen, not heard. We all have the same goal, bring the Lombardi trophy back to one of the most history-rich organizations in the league. I’m not going to be a loudmouth, cocky rookie; I don’t care how I make an impact – as long as it’s a positive one.”
The Dolphins and Titans are both teams that could use the positive impacts. Both narrowly missed the playoffs last year, Miami going 8-8 and Tennessee having a 7-9 record, but staring down the barrel of losing their franchise(ish) player for the last few years, running back Chris Johnson.
“Mettshow” as I certainly do not have permission to call him, was similar in his thoughts. He said, “I’m just a sponge trying to learn from some of the great players and coaches we have. If it’s one thing I’ve learned from this tedious drafting process it is that I can only control what I can control, and that’s all I need worry about.”
Hollywood couldn’t write it better: two fifth-year seniors, two friends, two late draft picks, two unlikely guys that could make an immediate impact with their teams.
I asked a mutual friend and former teammate, University of Georgia lineman, Hunter Long, what he thought about two guys he looks up to making such great strides at the next level. Thankfully, I didn’t have to go the bathroom at the time, because I may have let it go at his answer.
“Mett (Mettenberger) is Joe Namath to me. He looks great in fur coats, along with his touchdown throwing. Artie (Lynch) is Harvey Dent: a solid guy that I would vote to be our president, but he turns into a monster on the field. They shouldn’t be allowed within two states of each other at any given time or something catastrophic could occur.”
Lucky for us – assuming you guys don’t want the catastrophic event to take place – the Dolphins and Titans don’t play (in the regular season at least, and if they met elsewhere, wouldn’t that be a story in itself). Regardless, it certainly appears that this friendship which survived recruiting, a season as teammates, and three years as SEC rivals is one that will continue to help the two grow in their journey to making it on the biggest stage of them all.
Mettenberger said in closing, “Having him as a close friend for six years has been great. I always knew we had the ability to play in the league, and it’s our time to show the world. I’m rooting for us – as long as we aren’t playing – to succeed and achieve everything we hope to achieve in this league.
Lynch, being the future politician, got a little sentimental. “Our friendship has never been stronger and our futures have never looked brighter. I wish him the best of luck – even though he won’t need it. He will always be my brother, and I’m ready for us both to show the league what we are made of.”
Here is an interview the two did prior their senior year at SEC Media day, it’s pretty funny to see the two interact.They are two guys who you want playing for your team on Sunday’s and wouldn’t mind having a beer with on Saturday’s. Of course, not before games, but you know what I mean.