I’m not saying it’s particularly new, or different. But some of the biggest impact backs this season have come from nowhere to dominate. Nowhere, like undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls from Central Michigan in Seattle.
Rawls may take a seat this week, because Lynch’s balky hamstring is better. But what Seattle GM John Schneider knows now is if Lynch gets hurt again, he’s not going to have to look outside the organization for relief. Rawls is that guy.
It’s interesting to note the similarities between Lynch and Rawls. Each weighs 215 pounds. Each has a physical, pounding rushing style, and each has another gear when turning the corner—as Rawls did with a 69-yard touchdown sprint at Cincinnati on Sunday. In fact, in his final year at Central Michigan, coaches nicknamed him “Beast Mode” (you may have heard of that one) as he led the Chippewas in rushing. Rawls started his career at Michigan, couldn’t win the full-time running back job under Brady Hoke, and transferred to Central Michigan in 2013. After he sat out a season due to transfer rules, he played a season against Mid-American Conference competition in 2014.
“As a running back,” Rawls said this week, “I am running on heart. At any level of football, you’ve got to run with heart. I honestly think being a running back, a big part of it, is simply opportunity. I’ve gotten the opportunity here, and I’ve tried to do everything they asked me. If you get that opportunity, and then you earn a team’s trust, you’re going to have a chance to play well. That’s what’s happened here.”
“You look like a violent runner,” I said. “You seem to love contact, like Marshawn.” “No, not violent,” Rawls said. “I run with passion. I run with a love of the game.”
There’s another interesting facet to Rawls’ rise in Seattle. That’s his relationship with Lynch. He said when he first heard the nickname “Beast Mode” in college, he thought it was a joke. “There’s only one Marshawn, and I’m not him,” Rawls said. But when Rawls got to Seattle, he was impressed—no, amazed—with the amount of help he got from the guy who was number one on the depth chart.
“It’s incredible how much Marshawn has helped me,” he said.
“There’s a lot of things. But if I could think of one thing, it’s to be decisive. Make your move, and attack the hole. But all the other things. Later movement’s so important. Work on that. Low pad level, always low pad level. Watch the way you cut—cut to make guys miss. He wants me to be a complete back. There’s something every day he’s helping me with.”
Lynch is a human being with many angles. But you talk to teammates, and so many of them say what Rawls has said—he’ll coach you up, even if it means you may end up taking playing time from him. But as long as one of them stays healthy, it looks like Seattle won’t be able to blame a bad running game if the season goes south.