Dustin Lynch officially joined the Grand Ole Opry on Tuesday night (Sept. 18) -- with Reba McEntire by his side. The country icon, and Lynch's not-so-secret crush, surprised the newest Opry member by helping induct him into the hallowed institution.

Lynch performed on the Opry prior to his induction ceremony, telling the crowd, "This is the second-most nervous I've ever been on this stage." McEntire shocked Lynch by appearing at the end of his set.

"I know how you feel," she told him. "Do you know that 41 years ago yesterday was the first time I got to sing on this stage?"

Both Lynch and McEntire shed some tears as Lynch became an Opry member; he'd been invited to join in late August. Backstage at the Opry, before his performance, Lynch explained to The Boot and other media outlets that the flood of support he'd received from others in the country music industry, particularly Opry members, deeply touched him.

"It's great to have those members be in tune with what's going on here and who becomes a part of the family," he said. "Just puts a smile on your face.

"I walked in today, and the first thing I received was a very generous bottle from a beautiful girl by the name of Carrie Underwood, with a sweet note ... that said 'Welcome to the family,'" Lynch continued, adding with a laugh, "It's just so cool that Carrie Underwood knows who I am."

Throughout the evening, the country star wasn't shy about showing how emotional the evening made him. "I told everyone before I came out here that I'm a crybaby. I get it from my dad," Lynch said. "I can't believe what just happened out here. Reba McEntire gave me a hug!"

As someone who has deeply revered the institution of the Grand Ole Opry for his entire life, Lynch remembers every detail of his first performance there -- "like it was yesterday," he recently explained to The Boot. "March 2, 2012. I probably still have the shirt I wore. That was a mind-blowing night."

Since that day, Lynch's parents have never missed an Opry show, and there were plenty of other supporters in attendance for his special evening. "I've got a lot of the same family members here tonight that were here back then," he said. While singing "Small Town Boy," his last song of the evening, Lynch brought his young niece and nephew up on stage to stand in the Opry circle with him.

During Lynch's first trip to the Opry as a guest, he got an (unauthorized) taste of what it might be like to perform in the circle: "My first time as a patron of the Opry, I snuck in backstage," he recalled with a laugh.

"A buddy of mine that I went to college with lived next door to Jimmy Wayne. Jimmy invited his neighbor, and I went in on a false name. And got in," Lynch shares. "It was amazing, because I remember sitting backstage and just getting to look at the crowd I'd seen on TV from the camera's angle ... I closed my eyes, visualized it, put it out to the universe and said, 'Man, one of these days I wanna see this when I'm playing.' Fast forward however many years it's been, and tonight's happening."

Despite the fact that he's been playing in the Opry's famed wooden circle for several years, Lynch still feels like the honor is coming relatively early in his career. "I still feel like we're just getting started, so there's a lot more goals and dreams to chase down. But this is definitely going to be up there -- top three, I would say, of my life," he says. "So I'm just trying to live the moment and enjoy the heck out of it."

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