In a society that often misunderstands unique sports personalities, Seattle Seahawks All-pro running back Marshawn Lynch is yet another example of why perception is not reality.

His physical appearance, to some, might conjure dismissive thoughts of everything that is wrong with sports. But to others familiar with his soul model impact on his hometown Oakland, as well as Seattle, Lynch is thunder encapsulated in a lightening-infused bottle. His is the chaotic yet controlled energy that fans seek when arriving at CenturyLink Field, the ever-burgeoning personification of Seattle’s 12th man. He is energy in action.

The nascent superhero-like effect that Lynch has on fans indicates that his time in the NFL spotlight positively transcends the sport. He adds an incredibly athletic force on the field, and one that is untapped in a business sense outside the lines. While the world hyper-examines his teammate Richard Sherman, the man known as Beast Mode is able to lay low and focus on giving his fans one more shot to power-up this season for the biggest game of his life in Super Bowl 48.

His much scrutinized and casually assumed misanthropic relationship with the media is actually an unpretentious exercise in ensuring his emotions remain close to his soul. He’d rather stay focused on game day, as opposed to capitulating to a group that is more interested in exploiting him as a caricature.

Trust, he’s as aware that if he is prominent in helping the Seahawks to hoist the Lombardi trophy, it puts him on a collision course with branding in ways that few at his position have.  It’s no coincidence Madison Avenue is scant miles away from Met Life Stadium. The potentially beneficial financial wheels are spinning as powerfully as the offensive linemen carving out holes for him to speed through.

This year’s Super Bowl will be a cold one with a chance of snow at kickoff on Sunday. But the Marshawn Lynch saga has an opportunity to create some white-hot steam in a myriad of sui generis ways that are inspiring, from Oakland residents to long-time Seahawks fans to kids everywhere who have yet to pick up a football.

His father’s absence and the resultant wariness of others could be the reason why he has little trust for anyone outside of family or those close to him. There is obvious disappointment and emptiness in wondering why someone helping to create your life doesn’t want to be a part of your own. His mom, Delisa Lynch, did what she could at every turn, as every good mother does. When a young Marshawn stepped out of line, his football coach at Oakland Tech, Delton Edwards became one of the many father figures that helped Marshawn realize that his talent, and channeling the agonizing frustration of his life’s struggle, could change everything.

The coach known as “D” is a strong presence in the community and was the force behind Oakland Tech implementing mandatory study halls after school, before various team practices begin. Discipline then becomes a factor where earlier it might not have been.

Beast Mode, a nickname that is now trademarked, was born of those high school days and through the encouragement of Edwards, who was not only a coach but a father figure. Delisa’s father, Leron Lynch, was there to help as well and so was Marshawn’s older brother David.  Their loyal involvement became an early instrument to rely on.

Marshawn has had many relatives, like cousins Jamarcus Russell, Josh Johnson and uncle Lorenzo Lynch, play football on an elite level –whether as collegians or pros – and the blueprint became a worn pathway to step up and become the next in line. There is no denying that having his football blood-family, like cousin, receiver Robert Jordan, as a teammate at Cal, and another cousin, Virdell Larkins, who played defensive tackle for Idaho, along with the aforementioned others, influenced his views on the competitive nature of both football and life.

At Cal, Lynch rushed 490 times for 3,230 yards at a 6.6 clip, with a long of 71 yards. He scored 29 touchdowns and is still the Bears career leader in 100-yard rushing games, with 17.

Realizing his goal of becoming a pro athlete also gave Marshawn Lynch the passion to give back to his community. He is a man that cares for people. Those deriding him for his past should step back and understand that mistakes happen, regardless of a person’s tax bracket. Despite being a man of few words, Marshawn Lynch has a story to tell.

Fam First was created by Lynch and Cincinnati quarterback Josh Johnson to help those in North Oakland hope for better days. He gives a free camp annually, hosts coat, food, toy drives and back-to-school giveaways that benefit many in the community. You can see the eyes shining brightly like Christmas lights in the kids that he interacts with. And no one can ever say that Marshawn Lynch doesn’t go back home. Yes, he is the true definition of a soul model.

In this arena, a simple word of support from a soul model, who has made it out of similar surroundings, can push a kid who may not understand his own worth, into a more self-aware light. Marshawn Lynch is an NFL superstar who provides an example of attainable success to the kids from his hometown. If he did it, the thinking goes, so can they.

He is himself around the kids and nothing of his time at foundation events seems like forced photo-ops. He is proud of a community that is surely proud of him.

Marshawn seemed like one of those kids that coaches hope show up on first day of practice. Their energy is omnipresent, for kids flock to them and their minds are open to learning as long as they know that the coaches totally have their best interests in mind. When these kids show up, they influence the entire team to want to be better. Coaches without a title, these are the kids challenging their peers to maintain a standard without articulating what that standard is. They are a built-in check-and-balance system for every member of a coaching staff.

When asked what his most memorable football highlight is at Super Bowl Media Day, Lynch steps back into his high school past: “To this point, that’s a highlight of my life, winning that Silver Bowl in Oakland. That’s a pretty big time for me.” Five touchdowns in an upset to win the city championship back in 2003 is still the football memory he cherishes the most after all the great runs he’s amassed in the NFL? That is a true respect for the game and it must be noted that whenever Oakland Tech is mentioned, every kid associated with the school is represented.

Beast Mode is Oakland. The kid that was once labeled as a scat back is now a complete running back, always fixed on six or blasting downhill for positive yards either by running around, over or through anyone and everyone.

Whether it be his new endorsement deal with Skittles, auctioning off a limited edition of the candy benefiting Fam 1st, working with Jennifer Montana, the wife of 49’er legend Joe Montana and releasing a key necklace that also benefits his foundation and community initiatives, or the simple uplifting of Oakland, he is his own man doing it the only way he knows how.

Regardless of how some NFL fans view him, and despite his lack of words in the days leading up to this year’s Super Bowl, Marshawn Lynch knows that he speaks, most importantly, for those looking up to him.

 

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