Meet USC’s most fashionable and viral sensation: kicker Denis Lynch
The spelling on the shirt didn’t matter, only that it looked cool. So Denis Lynch bought it.
The red-headed redshirt freshman’s thinking behind a soon-to-be viral outfit is as simple as the slogan printed on the black T-shirt he wore into a game against Fresno State. The straight-forward phrase easily captures the USC kicker’s unique influence on campus.
“I’m Dennis doing Dennis things.”
With his meme-able fashion statements and consistent kicking, Lynch has grown into an unexpected favorite on a championship-contending team. The roster has enough multi-starred recruits to fill the sky during a Pac-12 after dark game, yet fans are celebrating an unassuming 5-foot-8 kicker with freckles and a curly mop of red hair every week in hopes of getting Lynch a scholarship.
As his home game outfits become appointment posting for USC’s social media team, Lynch accepts his new cult hero status with an “aw shucks” charm that belies what long snapper Jac Casasante called sneaky competitiveness.
“He’s one of the more competitive people on this football field,” the fifth-year specialist said. “He’s very passionate and outspoken about the things he wants to be better at.”
Lynch is perfect on his conference-leading 37 extra-point attempts and eight-of-10 on field goals as No. 12 USC (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12 Conference) hopes to stay in the conference championship chase after losing a heartbreaker to Utah. Lynch’s rise to becoming the leading scorer on a title-contending team comes less than four years after beginning his kicking career.
A multi-sport athlete at Newbury Park High, Lynch didn’t transition to football until his junior year. He acknowledged never even watching the sport — primarily focused on soccer — but realized he had a future on the gridiron during his senior year. The left-footed kicker hit 33 of 35 extra points during two years of high school football, including a perfect 10 of 10 as a senior. He accepted an offer to walk on at USC in 2021 despite a crowded position group that included then-returning starter Parker Lewis and veteran backup Alex Stadthaus.
When the Trojans signed Lynch, punter Will Rose received a text in the specialist group chat about the new addition. He saw a picture of a pale, 5-foot-6 kid with a headful of curly red hair.
“‘Who is this guy?” Rose wondered skeptically.
“Then he came in and hit the ball really well and I was like, ‘This is somebody who can start on this football team,’” Rose said. “Less than a year later, he’s starting on the football team.”
USC lost unexpectedly to Utah last week, but coach Lincoln Riley was in similar situations at Oklahoma and earned a College Football Playoff spot.
Lynch won the starting spot this season after Lewis transferred to Ohio State and he beat Stadthaus, who went six for six on field goals and 11 for 11 on extra points last year.
Entering the competition during preseason camp, director of player relations Gavin Morris reminded Lynch he had just one job. The kicker asked, just to confirm, what that was exactly.
“‘Kick the ball through the uprights,’” Lynch recalled Morris telling him. “So I guess that was kind of my approach. Just kick the ball through the uprights and whatever happens, happens.”
Halfway through the season, Lynch still isn’t sure what he did to overtake Stadthaus, who still handles kickoffs.
Ask Rose what separates Lynch, the redshirt junior holder said it’s his consistency and work ethic. Any misses in practice are met with frustrated calls from Lynch for an immediate do-over. The kicker lines up for the next one even before the ball is spotted.
“This kid is not only just here because he’s good, but he actually wants to be the best at kicking,” Casasante said.
The tight-knit trio keeps a dedicated group chat outside of the larger specialist conversation. Rose and Casasante, who made their college debuts this year along with Lynch in USC’s season opener against Rice, are also the kicker’s primary fashion mentors, offering encouragement and accessories. The black cowboy hat atop Lynch’s red curls before the game against Washington State was Casasante’s suggestion, and the long snapper lent him the sunglasses to complete a cowboy-chic outfit that included a black long-sleeved turtleneck sweater and denim overalls.
Lynch acknowledges he is far from a fashion icon. On typical days, he can be found roaming campus in his team-issues sweatpants, T-shirts and slides, but he stepped up his game-day attire after key motivation.
“I don’t have pictures of myself in fashion and my mom was like, ‘You should get better pictures of yourself,’” Lynch said. “My mom wanted to me to look good, so I said OK.”
Lynch is the star of plenty of pictures capturing his runway walk down the stairs into the Coliseum. After the success of his “Dennis doing Dennis things” shirt, the kicker is waiting for a “Dennis the Menace” shirt to arrive in the mail and plans to wear it despite the movie’s titular character using a different spelling than Lynch’s name.
When Lynch was told players were to “dress fancy” for USC’s opener against Rice, he reached for his long-sleeved turtleneck, black pants and a black belt with a gold Batman buckle. He finished the look with a thin chain.
“Heat stroke is temporary,” one Twitter account wrote after Los Angeles weathered a historic heat wave that pushed temperatures close to 100 degrees that weekend. “Drip is forever.”
The pregame tunnel walk has become more prominent in professional sports with NBA, WNBA and NFL stars earning as much social media attention from their fashion statements as their game highlights. With the trend trickling to the college ranks, it’s another opportunity for name, image and likeness deals, USC receiver Mario Williams said.
“Everybody got their own style,” the receiver said. “It’s a way to show your style and show how you dress.”
USC women’s basketball coaches changed their offseason schedules to help a revamped roster succeed while coach Lindsay Gottlieb is on maternity leave.
Rose, who sticks to a theme of vintage USC apparel with Casasante, rocked a USC club hockey jersey. Williams focuses on unique pieces that help him stand out. Lynch shops exclusively on Amazon.
Lynch bought his overalls online for $37 after seeing fans on College Game Day wearing oversized coveralls with bright stripes. He completed the look with black Air Force Ones, which are famous in sneaker-obsessed circles as the shoe of those up to no good.
While no teammates reacted in the moment — Lynch reasoned they were all locked into game preparations — he didn’t get much pushback on it later either, even though it raised eyebrows on social media.
“I think everyone just accepted,” Lynch said, “that it’s Denis.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.