Suitland High School Football Coach Nick Lynch Dies in Car Accident

By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 1, 2009

Nick Lynch, the Suitland High School football coach and athletic director and one of the most respected figures in Prince George's County athletics, was killed early yesterday morning in a two-car collision about a mile from his Brandywine home.

Lynch -- known as "Nick," even though his given name was David -- was traveling south on Branch Avenue about 2:30 a.m. when he attempted to turn left onto Brandywine Road, said Trooper Wesley Brown of the Maryland State Police. Lynch's car, a 2008 Dodge Magnum, was struck by a 2000 GMC Sierra traveling north on Branch Avenue, Brown said.

Lynch was taken to Southern Maryland Hospital in Clinton, where he was pronounced dead, Brown said. The driver of the Sierra suffered a broken leg. The accident remains under investigation.

Lynch, 43, carried an immense stature in the District Heights community. He took over a Suitland program in 1996 that had never made the playoffs and turned it into a state power, winning two Maryland championships and qualifying for the playoffs nine times in his 13 years. He also never stopped doing the little things; he usually collected yard-markers and goal-post pads after home games and occasionally could be found making sure the bathrooms were clean.

"This is a tough one," Suitland Principal Mark Fossett said. "He's had an impact on so many people's lives -- not only football players, but students in general. It wasn't like Nick was just the head coach of football. This is a devastating loss to our community, to our family. I can't tell you how much of an impact it's going to have. It's one of those things you don't even fathom."

Stefan Gansert, division chief at Chapel Oaks Volunteer Fire Department, was the first responder on the scene. Gansert, a former head football coach at Fairmont Heights and now an assistant at Eleanor Roosevelt in Greenbelt, was less than a mile away after leaving a house fire and heading home when the call came over the radio.

"It was an accident that I deal with all the time in my career," said Gansert, who was unaware until later yesterday morning that the person he pulled from one of the vehicles was Lynch. "I just worked it as a scene. I thank God [for] not knowing it was him. He didn't let me recognize it was him because then I don't think I would have been able to do my job."

Lynch grew up in Glenarden and was the second youngest of eight siblings. He played wide receiver at Eleanor Roosevelt and East Tennessee State University and returned to Prince George's, where he eventually became a coach and special-education teacher. He spent nine years as an assistant coach before becoming head coach.

His teams went 117-33, winning state championships in 2004 and 2006. The Rams were state runners-up on two other occasions under Lynch. This season's team qualified for the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season and finished 8-3.

"The football players had great respect for him," said Lynch's brother, Keith, who worked as an assistant coach at Suitland for several years. "Where other people gave up on kids, he was there for them. A lot of them, man, he was a father to a lot of them. A lot of them grew up in broken homes."

Lynch had a knack for connecting with his players, whether through pep talks or funny antics. At one practice in 1999, when his players seemed wound too tight, he suited up in helmet and pads and joined the reserves on the field to face off against the starters. He occasionally quarterbacked the scout-team offense.

He tried to give his players a family atmosphere that some of them may have lacked at home. His players regularly joined Lynch for services at the Ebenezer AME church in Fort Washington, and he held postgame meals for his team in the school gymnasium.

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