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Former Baylor Teammates Hand & Lynch Reunite with Vikings After Season Apart

When Harrison Hand received the long-awaited phone call, the next few moments felt like a blur.

The emotions and exclamations of family members, a phone that became one continuous buzz in his hand.

With the 169thpick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings select Harrison Hand.

The news flashed across his television, and it suddenly hit the young cornerback: not only was Hand about to start his NFL journey, but he would do so with a former teammate and friend.

Thirty-nine spots earlier, Hand saw the Vikings draft Baylor defensive tackle James Lynch, whom he had played two seasons with before transferring to Temple for the 2019 campaign.

"Once I saw him get drafted in the fourth round, [I was] excited, and then … in the fifth round, getting drafted by the Vikings, it didn't even click until it came back up on the screen, and I'm like, 'Oh my god, I've got James with me; I've got my boy,' " Hand said. "It was crazy."

Hand and Lynch recently caught up virtually with one another during an interview with Vikings Entertainment Network producer Gabe Henderson.

View images of Vikings fourth round draft pick Baylor DT James Lynch.

Lynch also recalled the moment he realized he'd be reunited with his buddy in the pros.

"As soon as I saw him get drafted, I texted him right away and said, 'It's time to go to work,' " Lynch said. "I was just happy because I was like, 'Damn, I've got Harrison with me. I can't ask for much more.' "

The pair of defenders first met during the Baylor spring game ahead of the 2017 campaign. That season, the Bears went on to finish 1-11.

Hand acknowledged that their freshman season, in which their first and only win came against Kansas in November, was "a struggle" but that players remained focused.

"We still didn't let that bring our spirits down. We still went into every game thinking we were gonna win, giving it our all," Hand said. "The energy was always there, no matter what it was. We were always going to bring it."

According to Lynch, bringing the positivity is something Hand's always done well.

Lynch called his teammate "the funny one," explaining that their lockers sat near each other at Baylor.

"There was always some type of way he could bring the energy up or bring something to practice to make people laugh and stuff like that," Lynch said. "Whatever the situation was, if Harrison was there, someone was smiling. That's why everyone loved Harrison."

Hand carried that mindset into the 2018 season when the Bears improved to 7-6, including going 4-2 at home. To cap off the year, Baylor defeated Vanderbilt in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl.

It was during that season that Lynch and Hand shared a sense of responsibility to act as leaders for the team.

"That whole year we realized we weren't just freshman – we were people they counted on; we knew we had to be people they could trust," Lynch said. "You realized what it took our freshman year because we lost so many – we lost basically every game. So you learn, this sounds weird, but we learned how to lose, so we learned how to bounce back from that [in 2018].

"We weren't as good as we wanted to be, obviously, but Harrison and everybody on that defense especially, we kind of had to step it up a notch," Lynch continued. "We weren't where we wanted to be, but we learned a lot of things, and obviously it helped us get where we are now. Being on the field and knowing you've got DBs who are going to help you get that sack, it's nice to have that trust. For us, we grew a lot in that one year."

View images of Vikings 5th round draft pick Temple CB Harrison Hand.

Following that season, Hand transferred to Temple.

"When he left, everyone was kind of sad because we just knew our locker room would be a little different," Lynch said.

But the friends followed each other's successes from afar.

Hand started all 12 games for the Owls in 2019. He recorded 59 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, three interceptions and five pass breakups.

Meanwhile, Lynch was having his breakout season for the Bears.

The defensive lineman racked up 13.5 sacks, which set a single-season school record and brought his career total to 22, also a Baylor record. Additionally, Lynch broke up five passes, forced three fumbles and blocked two kicks en route to earning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Hand said he "definitely hit up" Lynch later on in the season.

"It was crazy not being there and watching your guy … just really go out and do his thing that you already knew [had been] in the works since [he was a] freshmen," Hand said. "It was just a blessing to see him perform and do what he does now."

Now, the friends are excited to be starting their pro careers alongside each other.

"Being able to be back with someone you know … we've been through so much together, and you already know each other so well, that you can't wait to play together," Lynch said.

"I can't really say it any better," added Hand. "We've been going through so much with those two years at Baylor, and then being able to be on another team at a high level, it's just a blessing."