The man, the myth, the BEAST. Fanlime spent the weekend with Superbowl Champion and Seattle Seahawk’s all star running back Marshawn Lynch (aka BEASTMODE) to talk about his Oakland roots, the Fam 1st Family Foundation he founded with cousin Josh Johnson and his exclusive BeastMode collaborations with sports street wear brand Hall of Fame, the cutting edge performance brand ICNY, and the legendary Bay Area Hip-Hop crew, Hieroglyphics.
Fam 1st Family Foundation Football Camp
July 9 @ 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Thursday, July 9, 2015. Talent show
Held at Oakland Tech High School Auditorium
4351 Broadway Oakland, CA
5pm-9pm Admission $5 (4 under free)
Family Bowl Night (Albany Bowl)
July 10 @ 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Friday, July 10, 2015
Family Bowl Night (Albany Bowl)
540 San Pablo Ave Albany, Ca
Presale Admission $20
Door Admission $30
Annual Football Camp
Saturday July 11,2015
Annual Football Camp
4351 Broadway Oakland, Ca
Check in at 8am-9am (ages 6-12)
Check in at 12-1pm (ages13-18)
July 11 @ 10:00 pm – July 12 @ 2:00 am
Fam 1st Family Foundation Talent Show
Aside from his profession as a running back for the Seattle Seahawks, Marshawn Lynch is, in most ways, a typical American. Like anyone else, the lineaments of his success are consistent with the status symbols of his childhood and hometown. Like many good kids, he was a dreamer who wanted to grow up to help his family. Like many good men, his true heart is not for public view, and like many famous people, he’s wary of your motives.
A combination of these attributes earned Marshawn a $100,000 fine from the NFL last November for not interacting with the media. While not required by the Seattle Seahawks—Pete Carroll certainly doesn’t care if Marshawn talks to the press or not—the NFL, as part of its assiduous image maintenance, demands that its marquee players routinely supply the media with content. You don’t have to watch football to guess that most of this patter is the verbal equivalent of a store-bought Halloween costume, and because variations from this banal pattern often receive undeserved, rabid scrutiny, an enforced vapidity has long been the norm among athletes and their image managers. One should not critique Marshawn for wanting no part of this.
“He cares a lot more about his teammates than people think. He cares a lot more about this game than people think,” former Seahawk fullback Michael Robinson tells the Seattle Times. “He’s just not a guy that’s going to do it for the camera. That’s how he is.”
While he’s willing to perform when he calls the shots (as with his recent endorsement dealwith Skittles, his favorite candy going back to childhood) his scant press interviews usually range from curt to succinct. NFL Network reporter Deion Sanders happened into what qualifies asMarshawn’s mission statement when Marshawn told him, “I’m all about that action, boss … I ain’t never seen no talking that ever mean nothing. Been like that since I was little. I was raised like that.”
Marshawn’s “action” also happens to speak volumes. Nicknamed “Beast Mode” since his teenage years, Marshawn has an unusual talent for breaking tackles and finding an extra gear, perhaps best exemplified by this astonishing runagainst the New Orleans Saints a few years back. Seahawks fans love the guy; they’ve made his jersey one of the top-selling in football and caused Seattle-wide Skittles shortages in the lead-up to last year’s Super Bowl. These exploits make him worthy of the attention—if he wanted it.
Perhaps in retaliation, the media hasn’t downplayed Marshawn’s indiscretions and scrapes with the law, which mostly happened while he was a young player on his first team, the Buffalo Bills. He’s endured a hit-and-run charge he incurred while rolling through Buffalo’s bar district, a misdemeanor weapons charge, a DUI, and a citation for playing loud music—while in the Bills’ stadium parking lot.
“I would like to see them (critics) grow up in project housing authorities, being racially profiled growing up, sometimes not even having nothing to eat, sometimes having to wear the same damn clothes to school for a whole week,” Marshawn told Jeffri Chadiha, in a rare interview for ESPN E:60. “Then all of a sudden a big-ass change in their life, like their dream come true, to the point they’re starting their career, at 20 years old, when they still don’t know shit. I would like to see some of the mistakes they would make.”
Characteristically, Marshawn will not often talk about his difficult upbringing in a dangerous Oakland neighborhood. Marshawn’s mom, Delisa Lynch, a single parent working two jobs, struggled to support Marshawn and his siblings, and couldn’t often be around to keep them out of trouble or be there when someone let them down. Also, she permitted, but did not encourage, Marshawn’s relationship with his biological father, Maurice Sapp. “He chose a different lifestyle than what I wanted,” she says. “And let’s leave it at that.”
Marshawn badly wanted to spend time with his dad, however, and Maurice was around until Marshawn was eleven, doing things like taking him to church, but then got in trouble with the law and became increasingly remote.
In his E:60 interview, Marshawn told Chadiha about a time he went to his dad’s place only to have his father abandon him. “Moms would be like, I’m going to take you over here, to your dad’s house,” Marshawn says. “And when I get there, my dad’s like, OK, I’ll be right back, and then you don’t see this guy for like two days or something. And then after a while you build up numb feelings to that. You start to expect the worst from people.”
“The biggest letdown was his father,” his high school coach, Delton Edwards, told the New York Daily News. “That was the biggest letdown of all time. He wanted to build a relationship with his father, and it was there at times. But it never materialized.”
Marshawn also attributes some of his reticence to the tough neighborhood where he was raised. “Being from Oakland, you see a lot of things,” Lynch told ESPN this week. “You see friends turn on friends all the time. You see family turn on family.”
The family that was there for Marshawn—including his mom, uncles, and cousins, many of whom were talented athletes, saw a lot of potential in the shy, hurt little kid who ate Skittles before games and showed unusual endurance from a young age. “I’ll tell you why, and nobody knows this either,” Delisa tells Seahawks.com. “When I was pregnant with Marshawn, he was supposed to have a twin. When I had Marshawn, another placenta came out. That’s when the midwife said, ‘Don’t be surprised if he’s an amazingly strong child.’ So Marshawn is a twin to himself.”
Whether the cause of his football ability is talent, work ethic, or an extra placenta, Marshawn’s athleticism and academic performance got him into the University of California—Berkeley, where he was a star for the Golden Bears football team and earned a 3.2 GPA as a Social Welfare major. Before he even began his NFL career, he understood that he could leverage his status as a prominent athlete to make a difference in his community, the way people like Delton Edwards and his uncles had made a difference for him.
When Marshawn went pro and picked an agent—naturally, a local Bay Area guy named Doug Hendrickson—Doug was amazed at his new client’s focus. “In the first meeting, he wasn’t asking about his contract,” he told Peter King. “Honest to God, his dream was to build a youth center for kids in Oakland.”
In 2011, Marshawn teamed up with a cousin, NFL quarterback Josh Johnson, to launch a Bay Area non-profit called the Fam 1st Family Foundation. He hosts hundreds of kids each year at a free football camp, and plans to do much more; his fully-realized youth complex will have a computer lab, a gymnasium, a music studio, and will increasingly segue from its current focus on sports. “The main component we want to teach is basic life skills I feel a lot of kids are missing,” Marshawn said to Sports Illustrated. “How to balance a checkbook, create a résumé, how to fill out a job application, how to speak with confidence one-on-one.”
“This is not a vanity project,” says supporter and current California Lieutenant GovernorGavin Newsom, who met Marshawn when Gavin was mayor of San Francisco. “I’ve been in this racket long enough to have seen a lot of athletes who are just going through the motions, just checking a box. Marshawn has a deep commitment. He genuinely cares about his community, which is inspiring to see. Not only is he going to get this place built, but I’m going to predict the doors will never close.”
In addition to the non-profit and the youth center, Marshawn also does a lot of day-to-day assistance with disadvantaged children, from turkeys on Thanksgiving and presents on Christmas to free tickets to games and tours of the locker room. Pointedly, he’s disallowed the team’s media relations staff from inviting the press to witness any of these interactions with kids and their families.
“I think he’s a great philanthropist. He does anything for kids,” says Richard Sherman, one of the handful of other Seahawks who have started a non-profit. “And I think that if more people saw that side of him, they would look at him differently.”
“I feel that’s most important,” Marshawn told 710 ESPN Seattle. “To put a different light into their lives and let them know that they actually do have a chance.”
In saying so, Marshawn seems redolent of James Baldwin, who wrote in Nothing Personal: “It is necessary, while in darkness, to know that there is a light somewhere, to know that in oneself, waiting to be found, there is a light.”
“Generations do not cease to be born,” Baldwin continues in the same essay. “And we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have.”
Marshawn says, “Most people told me growing up that I would either be dead or in jail by the age of 18. I have friends that didn’t make it to 18. I’ve got homeboys now that have been in jail since they was 16. This is something that I wanted to change in my neighborhood. I felt if I could influence one kid to try to help them through life, that’s a win for me.”
Marshawn Lynch wasn’t sure if he would attend Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day. On Tuesday, Lynch did indeed appear at the event to briefly speak with the assembled media before spending some additional time with NFL Network’s Deion Sanders.
If Marshawn had any love for the spotlight, or even the slightest desire to soak up the fame associated with America’s most hyped sporting event, Tuesday could serve as a coming-out party for the ages.
With thousands of reporters set to descend upon the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., for Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day, Lynch has a compelling story to tell — which, in all likelihood, the Seattle Seahawks’ star running back will go to great lengths to avoid telling.
As of Monday, Lynch, the NFL’s answer to Greta Garbo, was still deciding whether to show up for the mandatory team-interview session, even at the risk of incurring fines that could exceed $100,000.
Even if he does appear at the podium, look for Lynch to give a figurative stiff-arm to reporters’ questions with the same ferocity he displays when pushing away would-be tacklers on his trademark Beast Mode rushes.
“If you’re forced to do something, it’s not as good as if you choose to do it,” Lynch told NFL Media last week during an expansive interview, making an exception to his three (words) and out approach to answering questions from reporters. “So no, I won’t have a lot of interesting things to say. When you’re forced to do something and you know it, it kind of just takes away from the whole experience of what it could be if (it were) natural. So, I’ll probably give forced answers.”
This is where I feel obligated to throw the columnist’s equivalent of a red challenge flag, if only to remind readers that Lynch’s ascent to the pinnacle of his profession has been nothing short of super. He has overcome a lot, from the rough streets of Oakland to the trouble-filled opening act of his NFL career, and the fact that he’s still standing is a testament to his resilience.
“He’s certainly authentic, and that’s so refreshing in this ‘look-at-me,’ celebrity-obsessed culture of ours,” California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said of his friend Lynch, for whom he is flying east to attend the Super Bowl. “We need a little of that, and I love his story. It’s good to see someone get better after he signs a big contract. And it’s good to see someone who, let’s be candid, has rebounded after some rough patches earlier in his career.”
As the rare media member to whom Lynch has opened up over the years, from his carefree days at Cal to his choppy stint in Buffalo to his satiating revival in Seattle, I can attest that the man known as Money is fully capable of living up to his nickname in interviews.
Last week’s was no exception: When I asked him to describe the low point of his stint with the Buffalo Bills, who took him in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft and dealt him to the Seahawks four games into his fourth season, his response was pure columnist’s gold.
“My lowest point?” Lynch replied. “I had a bunch of them, and I overcame them. I don’t think I ever had a lowest point while on an active NFL roster. My lowest point came (growing up), when we were trying to figure out what we were gonna eat at night. My lowest point came when I’d wash my jeans at night — and hopefully they were dry by the morning, so I wouldn’t have to go to school in wet jeans. Or, if they were still damp, I’d iron ’em so at least they’d be hot for a moment.”
Lynch has never been hotter than he is at this current moment, having come up big in each of the Seahawks’ playoff victories — as he did three postseasons ago, when his iconic, 67-yard touchdown run against the New Orleans Saints caused a literal earthquake and propelled him into a new realm of recognition.
Following Lynch’s 22-carry, 109-yard performance in the Seahawks’ 23-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in last Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, which included a 40-yard touchdown run that woke up Seattle’s offense early in the third quarter, fullback
Michael Robinson said of his backfield mate, “He is the face of the franchise, and his running style epitomizes what our team is all about.”
Really, though, Lynch has spent the past several years remaking himself as significantly off the field as he has in a football uniform. From his dogged devotion to charitable causes close to his heart to his growing collection of incongruous celebrity friends such as Newsom, Lynch is not the Beast you probably think he is, even though he most definitely plays one on TV.
“The man’s empathetic,” said Newsom, a native San Franciscan and diehard Niners fan who plans to spend time with Lynch after arriving in New York later this week, and who will be at MetLife Stadium on Super Sunday to cheer him on against the Denver Broncos. “Not long after Sunday’s (NFC title) game, he called me from his house and said, ‘Sorry, man. I hate to do that to your team.’ I’m thinking, ‘Hey, Marshawn’s a politician!’ But really, that sums him up — even in that moment, he wasn’t celebrating or boasting or rubbing it in. He showed compassion, which is the norm for him.”
This is not to say that Lynch should in any way be considered normal.
“No, he’s definitely not,” Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said last Thursday. “But we love him — and he’s a lot smarter than people give him credit for.”
As Sherman spoke, Lynch was engaged in his typical mid-day behavior in the Seahawks’ locker room: strutting around in a zone of his own, blasting hip-hop on his portable sound system and intermittently injecting himself into teammates’ conversations, invariably provoking laughter. He had his sweatpants pulled down to his hamstrings, revealing gray boxer shorts, and had a ski cap yanked low over his forehead.
“You’re gonna get the same guy every day,” Tarvaris Jackson, the Seahawks’ backup quarterback, said of Lynch. “He’s not gonna be fake with you, that’s for sure.”
Clearly, Lynch is at home in Seattle. Though he has not completely avoided trouble since arriving — he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in July 2012 in Oakland and subsequently charged, and the case is still unresolved — he has found fulfillment in the Pacific Northwest.
“If you look around our locker room, you see a lot of guys that’ve been in similar situations, where it hasn’t just been all glitter and gold,” Lynch said. “A lot of us have been through a lot of struggles, or played on another team, or we didn’t get drafted where we thought we should, or had a rough childhood and troubled careers. It’s cool to look around the locker room and see guys that done have some real-life stuff, and see them come together on a daily basis.”
Life was far less idyllic for Lynch in Buffalo, where, despite posting a breakout rookie season (280 carries for 1,115 yards in 13 games) and a follow-up campaign that resulted in the first of four Pro Bowl selections, he ultimately became persona non grata, especially after the franchise selected C.J. Spiller with the ninth overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.
In fairness, Lynch brought a lot of that on himself, thanks to off-the-field drama that included a hit-and-run incident and a guilty plea to a misdemeanor gun charge. He was essentially dumped by the Bills, who sent him to Seattle in October 2010 for a fourth-round pick in 2011 and a fifth-rounder in 2012.
“I had a couple of run-ins in Buffalo, and there was probably some bad blood between me and the organization,” Lynch conceded. “So I can understand why they’d have wanted to make the move. It never was my intention to put a black eye on the organization. I’m just thankful for the opportunity that I had to get out, and I respect their decision in coming and getting me. It’s a great place to be.”
Completing the trade became a personal obsession for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who, during his time at USC, had coached against Lynch’s Cal Golden Bears — and who aggressively lobbied Seattle general manager John Schneider to swing a deal.
“Marshawn was a guy that we went after directly,” Carroll said in an interview that will air on NFL Network’s “GameDay Morning” on Sunday. “I was really excited about getting him on our football team, because I knew he was unique and he was special and he was tough and he was a fierce competitor. We spent months trying to get that trade done.
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“I wore John out on that thing, and we finally got it done, and it’s been really an extraordinary part of our program. He’s done everything we asked of him. And he’s had a great run, and he’s been compensated well, for what he stands for and for what he brings to this program.”
Lynch, who signed a four-year, $31 million deal in March 2012, mostly stands for indefatigable toughness.
“Everything about him is tough, from the way he runs to the way he is, but he’s a positive force, and he’s very team-oriented,” said Earl Thomas, the Seahawks’ All-Pro free safety. “The way he fights for extra yards inspires all of us. He’s the concrete of our offense. When I see him do those things, I think, ‘Man, turn it up.’ I like that. I like players who can really change the tenor of the game.”
Added Robinson: “Guys feed off what he does. I don’t know if there’s another back that can cut laterally with more power on one leg like he can. I mean, Adrian (Peterson) might be faster straight ahead, but off one leg … I don’t know. And nobody wants to tackle that guy in January or February.”
Lynch is proud of his physical running style, saying, “It’s something that every running back takes pride in, no matter how you do it. It just so happens I have the ability to do it more than one way, whether it’s making a guy miss, stiff-arming a guy or even running over a guy. Everybody loves ‘extras.’ I try to bring that to every game.”
Yet surround him with a group of men and women bearing cameras, microphones and notepads, and his speech is suddenly devoid of any extras. Certainly, he can walk the walk, but he has very little desire to talk the talk.
In a world in which false humility has become so pervasive that humblebrag is now part of the modern lexicon, Lynch truly wants to deflect the attention coming his way.
“He’s the complete opposite of what people think,” Seahawks outside linebacker Cliff Avril insisted. “He’s a team person. He’s not one of those guys who makes it about himself.”
To this, Lynch reluctantly pleads guilty.
“Yeah, that’s all it is,” he said. “I’ve never seen anybody win the game in the media. But at the same time, I understand what it could do for you, if you wanted to be someone who talks a lot. But that’s not me.
“And I’m not as comfortable, especially at the position I play, making it about me. As a running back, it takes five offensive linemen, a tight end, a fullback and possibly two wide receivers, in order to make my job successful. But when I do interviews, most of the time it’ll come back to me. There are only so many times I can say, ‘I owe it to my offensive linemen,’ or, ‘The credit should go to my teammates,’ before it becomes run down.
“This goes back even to Pop Warner. You’d have a good game and they’d want you to give a couple of quotes for the newspaper, and I would let my other teammates be the ones to talk. That’s how it was in high school, too. At Cal, I’d have my cousin, Robert Jordan, and Justin Forsett do it.
“Football’s just always been hella fun to me, not expressing myself in the media. I don’t do it to get attention; I just do it ’cause I love that (expletive).”
So if Media Day, to Lynch, looms as the equivalent of getting his dreadlocks pulled out of his head, one by one, know this: Super Sunday will absolutely live up to its name. For someone so attuned to his roots and cognizant of his journey, it’s an opportunity that will not be taken for granted.
“I mean, it feels good, ’cause this is something that I’ve dreamed about for a long time,” Lynch said. “Growing up in Oakland, a lot of us never knew the world was bigger than outside of the ‘580’ and the ‘880,’ the two freeways that bordered where we lived. We didn’t see anything past that.
“Coming from the ‘hood, being raised the way I was, and having the support system around me, it allowed me to be in position to expand my world. People on the streets who’d see something I was doing that was positive … my mom putting a foot in my ass consistently … family members and friends and teachers and coaches helping me make good choices … all of that.
“There were probably some situations that didn’t look promising. It didn’t look like I’d make it out. And looking back, there are some situations where I was blessed.”
For that, he’s very thankful — in his own, quiet way.