When Wyeth Lynch arrived on the Williams campus in August of 1996 he did not have a concrete plan for where he was headed after graduation, but for sure, becoming an owner of a barbecue restaurant was nowhere on his radar screen.
A talented offensive lineman for the Ephs, who graduated with
First Team All-NESCAC, First Team All-ECAC New England honors and
was named to the Division II-III New England Football Writers Team,
Lynch learned the value of preparation while trying to crack the
"My first year I made the travel team, but was not really in the plans to play as I was still coming off a shoulder injury from wrestling in high school," recalled Lynch. "We lost at Hamilton that year and Mike Whalen [offensive line coach] just screamed at the seniors in the o-line and told them they stunk and all I could think of was, what must he think of me? I looked up to these guys. I knew right then I would always work my butt off to be ready when I was called."
|Wyeth Lynch '00|
That call came sooner than Lynch anticipated. Jogging out on the field at Colby for the season opener in 1997, starting guard Lee Kindlon suffered a freak injury.
"When coach Whalen told me to go in and play Lee's position I thought maybe Lee was just having some equipment problems," said Lynch. "I was totally lost out there on the first series and if had not been for [All-American] center Ken Becker telling me what to do on every play it would not have gone well."
When Lynch came to the sidelines after the first series Whalen asked him "How was it?"
"Good, you're starting."
Lynch later became part of a three-man rotation with Lee Kindlon and Rik Duggan.
Eph head coach Dick Farley, known for being obsessive about preparation, also supplied plenty of direction. "Every year coach Farley told us, 'a lot of good players have been here before you, but you are not them. The days of getting off the bus and winning are over.'"
Lynch's favorite Farley preparation moment came just before camp senior year when he was working out with the seniors. "Farley drove down the hill, across the practice field and over to the equipment shed," recalled Lynch. "As he was driving back across the field he rolled down the window and yelled out, "It's a little late to start trying now."
During preseason freshman year, Farley told the team, "I hope you guys are in shape because we have more important things to do than conditioning. If you're not ready and in shape, you shouldn't be here."
Out of Williams, Lynch went to work in technology market research for the Aberdeen Group in Boston. Three years later he was laid off. A career in venture capital or private equity like his dad's was where Lynch thought he'd head next.
As boredom set in, he started barbecuing for friends and family. Then he met a professional barbecuer in Boston who'd been a member of the team that won the Jack Daniels Invitational and he started to think seriously about starting his own place.
The tough times for Lynch only increased when his older sister Katie, who battled a connective tissue disorder, died. Katie had been a huge influence on Wyeth. "Katie had just passed and that had changed my whole outlook on life," stated Lynch. "I decided that I didn't want to just have a job, but I wanted to do something that I was excited about--something that would make me want to get out of bed every day.
"It was strange. If I set my alarm to get up at 4:30 to prepare meats for a barbecue, I'd wake up early, well before the alarm went off, but on those days when I had an interview for a different kind of job, I'd hit the snooze button and roll over. I knew then that I'd found my passion." Lynch's passion for barbecuing became a reality when he opened his own place, SoulFire, four years ago.
"Preparation is the single most important aspect of starting a business, especially one that deals with barbecuing food. Most of barbecue comes down to preparation because preparing and caring for the product are what the customer is paying for.
"Just like in football, in the barbecue business everyone has to know what their job is and be prepared to do it well, while also being ready for those things that you can't prepare for that always come up. You can have a great night in the restaurant and then you find out your basement is flooded. So, you just deal with it because you have taken care of everything else."
After that Hamilton game his first year, Lynch found more ways that Williams prepared him for what lay ahead. "The older guys were now committed to doing things the right way every time and then they made sure that the younger players knew what to do and how to do it the Williams way."
It was that approach to preparation that helped push the Ephs to two memorable wins over Amherst in close games that tested their resolve.
"1997 was so emotional – we were up, we were down, we were on the verge of defeat and then we put together the final drive to win 48-46 on Colin Vataha's field goal," noted Lynch. "We did not panic in that game, we were focused and poised because we were prepared."
At home against Amherst in 1999, "we just had to grind it out because our offense had trouble getting into gear," said Lynch. "We did what we had to do because we prepared for a day just like that." Lynch and the Ephs drove 88 yards in the final five minutes of the game to win 10-7.
Several sports luminaries in the Boston area are frequent visitors to SoulFire on Harvard Ave. in Allston, but the most frequent of these visitors is former Celtics great turned color man Cedric "Conbread" Maxwell. Little wonder then that Wyeth noted that of all the offerings on his menu, cornbread would probably be Katie's favorite.
"It took me three years to get to the break even point with SoulFire," but I'm now in the fourth year and I love it just as much as I did the first day and I am so happy I took the opportunity to follow my passion," Lynch commented as he finished preparing the reunion dinner for his Class of 2000 in the quad between Fayerweather and Fitch last June.