COSTA MESA, Calif. — In the picture, Anthony Lynn sits at a desk, surrounded by smiling faces of children he had previously seen only in his dreams. Lynn said at that moment, he felt a deep appreciation for the simple things in life.
“You always have enough,” the Los Angeles Chargers‘ head coach said, recalling the moment. “Even when you think you don’t, you have enough. And there’s always a way to figure it out and be successful. I saw a group of people do more with less than any people in my life. We think we have all of these needs, and they are really just wants.”
Lynn said his eight-day trip to rural Tanzania, in East Africa, earlier this year altered his perspective on life. Through the help of proceeds donated from his newly created Lynn Family Foundation, Lynn, his wife, Stacey, and his children — son D’Anton and daughter Danielle — traveled to Tanzania to help open a school for 300 children of the Masai Tribe in kindergarten through third grade.
At the heart of Lynn’s desire to serve is a loving mother, Betty Jackson, now retired and volunteering at elementary schools in Celina, Texas, a small town 40 miles north of Dallas.
“My mother has been a giver all her life,” Lynn said. “I just watched her as a kid growing up, the things she did and how she helped her community, her church. I have a passion to serve and to give. I can’t take any credit for that; I was raised that way, and that’s how I feel.”
Lynn’s foundation partnered with good friend Ravi Reddy, head of the nonprofit Privilege 2 Serve. Lynn and Reddy played football against each other in college, Lynn at Texas Tech and Reddy at Texas.
The two reconnected as neighbors in New York when Lynn worked as the running backs coach for the New York Jets. Lynn leaned on Reddy’s experience performing charity work in Tanzania, and Reddy introduced Lynn to the Tanzanian village in need of a new school.
The trip to Africa was a first for the Lynn and his family. Lynn said they intend to go back in the near future.
“I think it’s important now that we’ve established this foundation to carry on that legacy,” Danielle Lynn said. “We want to show that this isn’t just giving, that this is who we are. This is instilled in us, and we really value helping other people, seeing what we can do for people and helping them reach their full potential.”
Lynn and his family participated in a ceremony performed by the tribe to bless the new building, listened to native songs performed by schoolchildren during the opening ceremony and toured the facility.
“People say this and you always hear it — it’s life-changing because there’s poverty here, there’s no doubt. But it’s just different there,” Stacey Lynn said. “We have so many opportunities here that we take for granted that they just don’t have there. So to go there and see how people live, and the conditions they live in — they don’t even have clean water in many cases — it is just humbling.
“It makes you thankful, and it makes you step back and reflect. So it really has changed my perspective on the little things that I take for granted, and I think Anthony would say the same thing. And the thing about it is they are so joyful for people that don’t have a lot. They’re just joyful, like they’re just content because that’s what they know.”
The Chargers’ leader on the field moves to the beat of his own drum. He likes to listen to country music, dabbles in interior design and golf in his spare time but remains laser focused on directing the Chargers to franchise’s first Super Bowl championship.
After a 0-4 start, Lynn led the Chargers to a 9-7 record in his first season in 2017, just missing the playoffs. The Bolts improved to 12-4 last season, losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs.
So far this season, the Chargers are scuffling at 2-4 but are looking to rebound on the road Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
“He’s done a great job,” Chargers defensive tackle Isaac Rochell said. “A lot of it has to do with how long he played in the NFL, and his understanding of what it means to be a player. There’s a lot of carryover with him now as a coach, and how he treats us and how he treats his staff.”
Added Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley: “He just does a really good job with the team. There are no real highs or lows. They know what they’re getting every time that they come in the building, and that hasn’t changed from when we were 0-4 to start  or when we were on a roll last year. I think that’s what you appreciate about him, is consistency.”
Along with his toughness, Lynn’s ability to be brutally honest yet supportive won over this team, establishing a culture of accountability.
“Anyone who comes across him knows that he is the most blunt person you will ever meet,” Danielle Lynn said. “He tells you just how it is, he does not sugarcoat things, which is why I think a lot of people love him. How he feels is what he says.
“I think that creates respect for him. He comes off as a bit intimidating, but when you really get to know him, he’s just one of the most caring, gracious people ever.”
Added Stacey Lynn: “He’s funny. He’s quiet. He’s very thoughtful, sometimes to the point of frustration. I think he can overthink things. He has a certain way he likes things. He’s very orderly.”
Lynn says he likes all kinds of music, but developed his love of country music growing up in Celina. He’s good friends with Toby Keith, whom he got to know through going to concerts with Rex Ryan, the former head coach of the Jets and Bills.
Lynn wears boots, but no cowboy hat, to the concerts. Kenny Chesney’s “The Boys of Fall” video was shot in Celina, and D’Anton Lynn — an assistant secondary coach with the Houston Texans — appears in the video, playing football on the field.
“Toby and Rex are from Oklahoma, so those guys were pretty cool, and I started going to his concerts in New York,” Lynn said. “I kind of stood out (laughs). I was the only brother there. So Toby said, ‘Three years in a row you’re the only brother there, you’re holding it down for me.’ So we started hanging out in his trailer before he goes on stage and afterwards. We just got to know each other. He loves football. We could talk football all day.”
Count running back Melvin Gordon as someone who was unaware of Lynn’s outside interests.
“I didn’t even know he liked country music,” said a smiling Gordon, who also has a couple country songs on his playlist. “I thought that was due to the O-linemen and Phil [Philip Rivers], not because of Coach. … I like how he’s really firm and stands on what he believes, regardless of who the player is — it doesn’t matter. If he feels like it should be a certain way, then he sticks to his guns.
“I like that because sometimes you can have big-name players and they say something, and a coach will kind of feel intimidated and kind of change like, ‘OK, maybe you’re right.’ But he’s like, ‘Nah, this is what I feel is right.’ And I kind of like that. He’s his own man.”
An avid golfer, Lynn participated in the annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe for the first time soon after returning from Tanzania, finishing 81st overall.
However, the life-changing trip to Tanzania still stands out for Lynn in a summer he’ll never forget.
“Over there it’s life or death,” Lynn said. “Every day, their backs are against the wall. I think sometimes that we take some things for granted — I know I do. I try not to do that as much anymore.
“I was glad that my kids were there with me so that they could experience some of that. Just, clean water and things like that are a challenge for people over there — and just going to school.”