Ask Marshawn Lynch how he feels about playing in his hometown of Oakland for the first time as a pro, and you’ll be greeted with a furrowed brow and a general uneasiness.
So was Lynch a Raiders fan growing up?
“I ain’t going to let you get me into that right now,” quipped Lynch. “I’m a Seahawk.”
Pressed further, Lynch admitted to looking forward to returning to familiar surroundings, and that it will be a good opportunity for family members and friends – some of whom have never been to an NFL game – to see him play in person as a pro.
“The anticipation of going back is huge,” he said. “But like I said before, it’s a business trip. You still have to go ahead with a clear mind, stay focused and not let outside things – as far as I’m going to have family attending the game – play a factor in this.”
The bruising runner said he doesn’t know how many tickets he’ll need to satisfy all of the requests for the game. He said he’s played at Oakland Coliseum only one time, during his senior year at Oakland Technical High School, when his team won the city championship in 2003. So he’s 1-0 at the Bay Area stadium and looking to make it 2-0 on Sunday.
“So far, so good,” he said.
Lynch likely will have a former competitor during his formative years blocking for him on Sunday, with Quinton Ganther re-signing with the Seahawks this week. Ganther and Lynch played for rival Pop Warner teams growing up in Oakland.
Seattle brought Ganther back because starting fullback Mike Robinson has a hamstring issue and might not be available to play Sunday.
Lynch said Ganther was one of the biggest kids in his pee-wee days but stopped growing, and Lynch accused Ganther of being the Danny Almonte of the league.
“I was 11 or 12, and Quinton was like 30,” quipped Lynch. “He was the only dude on the Pop Warner team who had a full mustache and a beard. And he used to drive to Pop Warner games. You’re not supposed to be doing that.”
“It was crazy,” added Ganther. “Literally, parents wanted to fight me. Coaches protested to get me kicked out of the league. I was legit though.”
Ganther was at home with his wife in Sacramento, who recently gave birth to twin boys, when the Seahawks called. Ganther said he’s pleased to be back with the team and blocking for Lynch.
“This is my little brother right here,” Ganther said. “I love this guy to death. I’m happy to be back. I’ve wanted to play with this guy for so long. Like he said, he’s a fan of mine, but I’m a fan of him also. I love the way he plays the game. And it’s a blessing for us to be here together.
“And in our first game starting in the backfield together, we get to go home and do it in front of our home crowd. So it’s a good thing.”
Along with Lynch, other California graduates returning to the Bay Area include running back Justin Forsett, tight end Cameron Morrah, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and offensive lineman Mike Gibson.
“It’s going to be nice,” Forsett said. “I think it’s going to be a good atmosphere. Obviously it’s Halloween, so the fans are definitely going to be involved. It’s going to be exciting to go back and see some friends and some of the coaches that will be able to make it. So it will be fun.”
Lynch continues to make a big impact on his new team. In four games before the trade with Buffalo, Seattle averaged 79.5 yards a game on the ground. In the past two games with Lynch, Seattle is averaging 127.5 yards a contest.
That’s not good news for the Raiders, who are giving up an average of 139 yards per game on the ground.
“We’ve just got a good group,” Lynch said. “And we’ve put in the time to make sure we’ll be on point with what there is that we need to do.
“So I feel it will be more about what we do rather than what they’ve got going on.”