Marshawn Lynch grew up – and grew into a Beast of a running back – in Oakland and at Cal. Sunday, he’ll play at Oakland Coliseum as a pro for the first time when the Seahawks face the Raiders.
He has played there before, in a championship game as a senior running back at Oakland Technical High School. He has even appeared there in his role as a professional football player, to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at an Oakland A’s game.
But Marshawn Lynch is about to tread where his powerful legs have never taken him before: Running into theOakland Raiders’ defense at Oakland Coliseum, which is a short drive south on the Nimitz Freeway from where he played his college ball at Cal.
“I’m really excited about that,” Lynch said this week, when he has done his best to downplay playing against the Raiders on Sunday when the Seahawks face his hometown team.
“My family gets to see me play. A lot of my little cousins and aunties who haven’t been to a football game, this will be their first one so I know they’re excited about that.”
Also in attendance will be Lynch’s kid brother, Davonte, who plays at Shelton High School in Sacramento and recently went off for a 260-yard performance in a game Lynch got to see during the Seahawks’ bye week.
“Oh yeah, he’s going to be there,” Lynch said when asked about Davonte. “Most definitely.”
One topic Lynch definitely does not care to broach is that idea of playing against a team he grew up rooting for.
“I’m a Seahawk, man,” he said. “I’m a Seahawk.”
“You didn’t root for them growing up?” Lynch was asked.
“I’m a Seahawk,” he reiterated, with emphasis and a smile.
“But it is the Raiders,” someone else reminded Lynch.
“Man, you’re trying to get me just like he did,” Lynch said, adding another smile.
If the Seahawks are going to run their record to 5-2 for the first time since 2005, Lynch will have to do as good eluding the obvious on Sunday as he did all week.
The Seahawks have become a different team since acquiring Lynch in a trade with the Buffalo Bills 2½ weeks ago. The proof is in the record, as they have upset the Bears in Chicago and the Arizona Cardinals at Qwest Field last week in Lynch’s first two games. But his impact goes even deeper than a couple of W’s.
“Right away it was an adrenaline boost to our running game getting him in the building,” quarterbackMatt Hasselbeck said. “We’ve got quite a few Cal Bears on this team and so immediately those guys vouched for him in a sense. He just fit in nicely.
“He’s really tight with the offensive line. They love him. He comes in, he’s been very helpful to the quarterbacks. Everyone gets along real well and that’s an important part of it.”
As Lynch stressed this week, he’s a Seahawk – in actions, as well as carefully chosen words.
“Marshawn is his own guy and his own kind of character in a sense, but he very much has bought into what we’re doing – follows the rules, runs from drill to drill, he’s early to meetings, just all the stuff you’re supposed to do he does,” Hasselbeck said.
“And he plays well on Sundays. So that’s an easy way to gain respect in the locker room.”
Lynch actually has played better than his numbers would indicate. He ran for 44 yards on 17 carries against the Bears, as the Seahawks rushed for a season-high 111 yards. He had 89 yards on 24 carries against the Cardinals, as the Seahawks produced a new season high – 144 rushing yards.
While averaging 2.6 and 3.7 yards might not sound that impressive, it’s how Lynch has gained those yards. By running hard – almost violently – to find and grind out yards that don’t appear to be there. His physical presence has only enhanced what Justin Forsett does best, as Lynch’s former teammate at Cal and still close friend has produced 76 and 72 yards rushing and receiving in the past two games as the third-down and change-of-pace back.
Forsett also knows what this game – in this location – means to Lynch.
“It’s going to be fun for Marshawn,” Forsett said. “It’s going to bring back memories.”
The Seahawks also brought back another player this week who has known Lynch even longer than Forsett – running back Quinton Ganther. He and Lynch played for rival Pop Warner teams growing up.
“Marshawn is a hometown kid. They love him,” Ganther said. “What’s not to love about him? What you see with Marshawn is what you’re going to get. He’s not going to act like somebody he’s not. He’s going to be himself – no matter who’s around, no matter what the situation is.
“They love that about him back in Oakland. I love that about him. I’ve known him since he was very young, and he hasn’t changed. He’s unique and he’s himself. That’s what you have to love about him. You want to be around good people, and he’s the type of person you want to be around because you know he’s going to give you everything he’s got.”
As he has done since making the reverse coast-to-coast run to join the Seahawks, Lynch is locked in on what’s really important.
“The anticipation of going back is huge,” he said. “But it is a business a trip. I’ve still got to go down there with a clear mind and stay focused and not let the outside things play a factor in this.”