The 2016 NFL season may end up going down as one of the darkest years for running backs. Not only is the league continuing to lean more on quarterbacks – not just ones who are breaking passing records like Drew Brees, but also the Cam Newton and Russell Wilson’s of the world who aren’t afraid to get yards on the ground – many offenses don’t even feature a single running back anymore because of how dangerous the position is and now transcendent athletes are suddenly tough to come by at that position. Only seven players rushed for 1,000 yards last season; That number was down from 13 in 2014 and 23 such players in 2006.
Because of that, Marshawn Lynch may end up going down as perhaps the second-to-last (after Adrian Peterson) reminder of an era that has made a quieter fade into obscurity than the last seven seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. But Lynch isn’t just one of the best football players of his era: Since retiring in February, we’ve been reminded that Lynch is also an amazing fucking human being to watch live life.
Lynch could be seen wearing pads again on the practice field with the Cal football program down in Australia as they prepared for their 51-31 win over Hawaii last Friday. Before the game, another one of his “actions” (the ones with which he’s known for being “just about,” boss) went viral after Lynch signed a fan’s Patriots t-shirt with, “Seahawks! Beast Mode U Bitch!”
That’s just the most recent news about the former Seattle running back to make headlines following his retirement in February.
In June, his interview with 60 Minutes Sports was fairly hailed as one of “the greatest videos” many of us have ever seen as he detailed how he made a career out of running through people’s faces. That same month, Lynch test drove some cars with Digital Trends and talked about Tesla, “frunks,” and says he doesn’t have any dance moves, he “just lets it flow.” Here here is on July 9, “making men out of boys” by giving a kid the dream of being knocked over by Beast Mode himself at his Fam 1st Family Foundation youth camp:
— Squint (@Squint2Mylou) July 10, 2016
For 10 years, Marshawn and cousin-slash-NFL quarterback Josh Johnson have run Fam 1st Family with the intention to “improve the lives of children” and it’s not just a flag for them to fly as a tax write-off or to look good to the public (as we know as good as fact by now, Marshawn doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks about him), but it’s an organization with a cause that means everything to him.
And that’s when you begin to transition into remembering that there is a soft side to the Beast, if you even knew it at all. Because as terrifying as Lynch was on the field, and as polarizing as he was to fans who viewed him in media snippets refusing to say more than a few words (often just repeating the same ones like “Grateful”), perhaps nothing other than football has been more important to him throughout his career than charity. Now that football is over, it seems that charity and giving could take over.
In April, he spent the early part of his retirement helping build homes in Haiti with Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril. Another former teammate, Ricardo Lockette – who was forced into retirement this offseason – recently wrote about the time Lynch spent the whole night in the hospital with him after Lockette’s career-ending neck injury last season. “A lot of people don’t know the real Marshawn. They don’t understand what kind of a man he is, and how much he does for his people in Oakland. My goal in life is to have ten percent of the effect that Marshawn has on people’s lives.”
He’s also determined to not become another statistic involving rich athletes quickly going broke after hanging up the cleats (a literal reference for Marshawn), with rapper cousin Mister F.A.B. telling The Breakfast Club that Marshawn hasn’t spent any of his NFL money, instead living off of endorsement deals only and being a “cheap ass…” Seattle’s All-Pro punt returner Tyler Lockett said that Marshawn even helped him with his 401k.
In fact, websites have even cited Lynch’s historic soundbites as great business advice such as “I know I’m going to get got, but I’m going to get mine more than I get got though”; “Just about that action, boss”; “If you just run through somebody’s face, a lot of people aren’t going to be able to take that over and over and over and over and over….and over and over.” (Lest we forget Lynch’s best business advice of all: Avoid costly fines.)
Another one of Marshawn’s favorite activities over the last few years has included acting and comedy, such as his appearances on Conan and making not one, but two cameos on the also-since-retired FX show The League; co-created by Seahawks superfans Jeff and Jackie Schaffer, Lynch was considered a priority get for the couple running a show about friends in a fantasy football league. But despite a prank Lynch pulled during his first time appearing on the show when he pretended that he would miss the shoot and force production to be delayed and cost them thousands of dollars (he was in fact on time), the Schaffers say he couldn’t have been nicer or more generous with his time while on set.
“He could not give one single, solitary fuck about what you think of him, but he gives so many wonderful fucks to the things he cares about,” says Jeff. “With Oakland, Fam 1st, friends, teammates, and I know there’s all this stuff about him being frugal, but the thing he’s not frugal with is his time.” The Schaffers note how he’d spend all day with crew, anyone who wanted photos, and even people who were walking over in droves from other shows and stages, just to take pictures with him. Jackie has also always been impressed with how Lynch treats women, which unfortunately has not been the case for many NFL stars who make the news. “I think he has a very good relationship with his mom,” says Jackie, “and I’ve worked with him a bunch of times and he’s always been very kind to all the women on set. Very sweet.”
“It’s been our experience that he’s a very good guy.”
Away from the fanfare of viral videos like riding a camel in Egypt, he’s spent a good portion of his summer working on a campaign to turn a SF Muni bus into a “hyphy ride to transport our kids to workshops,” that will operate in the Bay Area to make sure youth are able to get education that they may otherwise not get. It may be the one area where Lynch could begin to attract more attention to himself from the media, if it helps kids get opportunities he didn’t have while he was growing up in Oakland.
The 2017 NFL Draft is expected to have one of the best running back classes of this century and the likes of Leonard Fournette, Nick Chubb, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Royce Freeman, and others will usher in a new era of the ground game that officially puts the final touches on the previous one that was headlined by a special few, including Lynch. And while it’s sad to think that his days as a football player are over, it’s more exciting to be left wondering, “What’s next?”