When Michael Lynn came to Lincoln for the Red-White Spring Game last month, he spent the weekend largely the same way most of his other fellow Nebraska football signees did.
The 6-foot-7 offensive lineman met with Greg Austin, his future position coach, he got to know his future teammates and he took in the sights and sounds of 85,000-plus at Memorial Stadium for a scrimmage.
Here’s where Lynn’s a little bit different from the rest of his classmates, though. While he did that, his 23-year-old brother KC took some business meetings in town about potential real estate deals.
Michael and KC, you see, are burgeoning real estate investors, trained by their mother and already experienced at a level that’s hard to fathom given their young age.
After all, how many teenagers do you know who have been part of buying an apartment building in New Hampshire?
“It’s a six-unit apartment complex and most of the units are studios, there are a couple of one-bedrooms and I think there’s a two-bedroom,” Michael Lynn said this week. “That’s the only property I have right now. We’re leasing it out already. It’s pretty cool to be investing in real estate at such a young age and I have such a good head start into hopefully what will be my source of income later on in the future and I’ll be able to grow and be successful off of that.”
Most college kids have to find an apartment at some point and maybe get accustomed to working with a landlord. Lynn already is one. And he’s learned what a pain in the butt it can be.
“We have a management company out there right now,” he said, explaining the process of finding a reputable company when he’s never actually set foot in New Hampshire. “We had to remodel the whole place, change everything, gut it out. Basically it’s been a pretty time-consuming process with it. We’re coming up on pretty close to a year of having it now, and we just started leasing out the properties about two months ago. It’s been a lot of issues.”
Michael and KC, though, think they have the makings of a successful pair.
“Michael is a very driven individual. He’s very ambitions, very hungry,” said KC, a University of Colorado graduate whose day job is working for RE/MAX Northwest in the Denver area. “I’m very detail-oriented and just as driven. Michael just has the drive to go for deals and look at properties. He loves just going out and just being a part of it, where as I love to just crunch numbers all day long. I graduated as an engineer, so numbers are kind of my thing. I think he does the more deal-driven side and I’m more the analytical side and I think that makes us a good team.”
The Lynns both credit their mother, Yan Zheng, extensively while explaining how all of this came to be. Zheng ran a Chinese restaurant in the Denver area for 17 years while raising three kids — the Lynns’ dad left the picture when Michael was 2 — and taking care of her parents.
“I definitely owe her a lot,” Michael said. “She’s sacrificed a lot of her life to give me a comfortable space.”
“She accepted that challenge and was working for 17 years, never taking a day off, working for 12 hours a day, maybe longer,” KC added. “I remember sometimes she’d stay up until 3 a.m. grinding and, looking back, that was all for us and the family and that’s a debt we can never repay.”
Zheng, with the encouragement of some of her friends, started getting involved in real estate after the bubble burst about 10 years ago. About three years ago, she ditched food service all together when she sold restaurant, formed her own company and, her sons say, never looked back.
“It’s amazing, and that sort of attitude passed to us because we saw the kind of determination that our mom had and the kind of sacrifices she put for us, that really made us just want to work harder,” KC said. “We just didn’t want to disappoint her. We knew what we had to live up to.”
KC attended Horizon High in Thornton, north of downtown Denver, but Michael starred at Cherry Creek, a football powerhouse south of downtown. Zheng made that possible, too, allowing Michael to live alone starting at the age of 14 so he could attend the school that gave him the best opportunity.
“It’s been great for me because it’s taught me how to budget my expenses and basically grow up. It’s just something that I really thank her for,” said Michael, who reports to NU on May 25. “I’m going to be honest: it was pretty lonely at first. I moved there the summer right after middle school and at that age everyone is still pretty young. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I knew I was there for a purpose, and my purpose was to play football and be a difference maker on the football team. I had to put my emotions aside and really perform if I wanted to succeed.
“That’s what I’ve been doing and it’s definitely got a lot easier, a lot less lonely now.”
Nebraska coach Scott Frost marveled on National Signing Day about the unique path his new offensive lineman took through high school, saying, “He’s a special kid. Talking to him you feel like you’re talking to a 30 year old. … Just kind of a different kind of kid. I can’t wait to get him here and he’s got a maturity that I think is rare.”
Indeed, Lynn’s adjustment to college will be different than most. He’ll have roommates for a change and he’ll have to adjust from a queen-sized bed to something “much smaller,” he said with a laugh. He also already knows what he wants to do whenever his football career ends. Not only that, but he’s already doing it with his brother.
There’s still plenty to learn, though — in football and business — and Lynn doesn’t come off as somebody who thinks he’s got it all figured out already.
“Everyone has something to teach you, you know?” he said. “I’ll never meet someone that can’t teach me something. I took a business calculus class this year and it really helped me figure out my loans and the prices and interest and helped me understand all of that on a lot deeper level.
"In the future I can apply those things and apply it to my real life and really, really seek success through it.”