No limelight for Marshawn Lynch

Dec 20, 2012, 9:38 AM | Updated: 11:22 am
Through 14 games, the Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch has already racked up a career-high 1,379 rushing yards, second only to Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. (AP)

Last Sunday against the Bills in Toronto, Marshawn Lynch had his eighth 100-yard rushing game of the season. He is second in the NFL in rushing with 1,379 yards, has a 5.1 yard-per-carry average and 10 touchdowns. His performance on Sunday (10 carries for 113 yards and a TD) was so impressive, me, Jim Moore and Danny O’Neil spent exactly zero minutes talking about it on Monday’s show.

You see there’s this guy named Russell Wilson in town and he tends to suck up all the attention these days. Rightfully so – Wilson has gone on a tear lately that has captivated Seahawks fans who have been thirsty for good quarterback play the last couple of years.

Lynch wouldn’t have it any other way. As a matter of fact, he loves it. He doesn’t want the limelight or the focus. He just wants to play football and that’s something that Seahawks fans can get behind and it’s what makes him such a great teammate.

The last time I remember hearing from Lynch was after the Miami game, a loss in which he only rushed for 46 yards. There was no scowling or harsh answer during the interview and he was gracious with both his time and himself. He’s much more likely to talk to the media after a game like that than after a victory in which he runs for over 100 yards. He’s not there for that. He just wants to win and is willing to pick his teammates up after a loss.

He reminds me of Lofa Tatupu in that way. It was well known in the media that if you want one- or two-word answers, ask Tatupu about himself. If you want sentences that turn into paragraphs, ask him about his coaches and teammates. Like Tatupu, Lynch has a level of selflessness that plays well with his teammates … and ex-linebackers.

You can see it in the way he runs. He’s an offensive lineman’s dream. Just ask Max Unger, Russell Okung or John Moffitt – they love blocking for Lynch because he fights for those extra yards. According to ESPN NFC West blogger Mike Sando, Lynch’s 479 yards after contact is fourth in the NFL.

So the next time you see a Seahawks offensive lineman get a personal foul for a late hit downfield, give him a break. You can never assume that Lynch is done running just because he got hit. He’s always a threat to come out of a pile with three tacklers hanging off of him.

There’s something else that strikes me about Lynch and makes me think he would be welcome in any locker room during any era. He pays attention and keeps his eyes open to everything around him. He notices the little things and has a hilarious, off-beat sense of humor.

A few days after the Seahawks traded for him, he walked into the sound-proof bunker where we broadcast “The Huddle” at the VMAC. He sat down, put on the headphones for the interview and looked at the ground waiting for the questions to start.

I had heard a few stories about him being on the wrong side of the law but I really didn’t know much about him on or off the field. Dave Grosby asked him the first question and the moment Groz spoke, Lynch’s head snapped up and he looked at Groz with a shocked look. Groz hesitated for a moment and Lynch said, “Maaaan … I did not expect that voice to come out of you. You surprised me!”

We all had a good laugh and from that moment on, my view of him changed. So many times during interviews, pro athletes are just there to answer the questions with no thought and get by doing the bare minimum. But it was clear that this was a guy with a unique sense of humor and a level of awareness to point out something insignificant or off-beat.

A few weeks later he charmed a group of reporters in Chicago after the Hawks beat the Bears. He was in the middle of an interview when he glanced over at a reporter and did a hilarious double-take because he thought the reporter standing next to him looked like backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.

He stopped the interview to shout across the locker room, “Charlie! Is this your pops over here man?” It stopped the interview and won over everyone present.

My son Jake, who was a ball boy for the Seahawks in 2011, told me a similar story. Jake was 17 at the time and still growing but his feet have always been full grown. He was about 5-feet-7 at that time but he wore a size 13 shoe. He was in the locker room between practices dutifully folding towels when suddenly he heard a voice behind him say, “Yo, little gangsta … little gangsta.”

Jake pointed to himself and said, “Me?” “Yeah, you … what size shoe do you wear?!” Lynch asked. Jake replied, “I wear a size 13.” Lynch observed him for a moment and said, “You look like an upper-case L.” We still laugh about that and sometimes refer to Jake as our “upper-case L.”

All of that aside, the Seahawks are going to need some more 100-yard efforts from Lynch and that’s what really makes him a good teammate. It helps that he’s only carried the ball 21 times the past two weeks. The Hawks will need his fresh legs during their push towards the playoffs.

These days, all the focus is on Russell Wilson and that’s good for Lynch in more ways than one.

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No limelight for Marshawn Lynch