By Gregg Bell The News Tribune
RENTON — Rich Gang’s “Lifestyle” was boomin’ over Marshawn Lynch’s personal sound system.
The Seattle Seahawks’ star running back who has had as many 1,000-yard seasons in the NFL as he’s had media interviews in the last 12 months — that would be five — sat at his locker no more than a foot away from his speakers following Tuesday’s practice for Thursday’s NFL opener against Green Bay. He picked through a huge drawer of worn turf shoes, high-tops and cleats he said he was about to donate.
And he spoke.
Well, for two minutes of questions about football he barely talked — 40 words in nine questions. He mostly stared or sorted all those shoes as the R-rated lyrics boomed on.
How’s the offense looked this summer?
Do you think the offense will be more explosive and throw the ball more — read: run it less — this season?
“I guess we’ll find out.”
What are your personal goals for this season?
“To have fun.”
When Dave Mahler of Seattle’s KJR radio asked Lynch if he and the Seahawks were in a good place about his contract following the running back’s short holdout at the start of training camp, one that netted him an additional $1.5 million in re-worked cash on top of his $5 million pay for 2014, Lynch said nothing. He looked up from those shoes. And he stared at the questioner coldly for five seconds.
One of the few football-related answers was on his relationship on the field with quarterback Russell Wilson: “We’ve just continued to grow.”
After that, he was asked about his FAM 1st Family Foundation, which he began back in his hometown of Oakland, Calif., with 49ers backup quarterback Joshua Johnson in March 2011. On that subject, the reclusive running back was a relative orator. He spoke for more than five minutes on what the foundation means to him, the experiences he’s had with it and how if he wasn’t a Super Bowl-champion running back he’d probably be back in Oakland trying to help his city’s youth full time.
He said working with one particular kid at his annual football camp at his alma mater of Oakland Tech High School this July “touched me deeply.”
Lynch and Johnson both graduated from Oakland Tech, which is in a gentrifying section of north Oakland. It’s about three miles south of where Lynch played collegiately, at the University of California, Berkeley.
“It gives inner-city youth an opportunity,” Lynch said of his FAM 1st Family Foundation.
It was, of course, a self-serving topic. But it’s a side of the 28-year-old Lynch few hear about or see. And it was the only subject he seemed even remotely interested in discussing on his first public comments since three days before February’s Super Bowl.
Lynch was asked for an example of how he’s helped kids in the East Bay Area through his foundation and the annual football camp he and Johnson put on at Oakland Tech each July. This last one was their eighth camp.
“Well, just this year I had a kid …” he began.
Then Lynch jumped into rapping a line along with the song that was blaring into him and the five or so reporters surrounding his locker. He rhymed for about five seconds — and then, presto, he went right back into his answer.
“… I had a kid that came to my camp that told me that he was committing suicide by coming to my camp, because of the area (north Oakland) that it was in,” Lynch continued. “And by him coming, he felt like he was putting his life in danger. But he said he wouldn’t miss the opportunity to come out there and be a part of it.
“So, I mean, even with kids that feel like this might be a life-threatening situation — but to be out there and experience that they wouldn’t turn that down for nothin’, I mean, that’s a big accomplishment. And I mean, you know, being able to talk to that young man and being able to help him through his situation was big for me.
“I don’t think that’s something that you go around boasting or bragging about, but that touched me dearly.”
For Lynch, it had to be his most expansive he’s ever been in an interview during his NFL career. For him, compared to his usual verbal output, it was like a Gettysburg Address.
Lynch said he stays in touch with the kids that come to his camp, that many have gone on to get Division-I football scholarships and that he texts with them often.
“I don’t think they look at me as a life-changer. I think they look at me more like a family member,” Lynch said of the inner-city youth in his foundation and his hometown. “This is something that’s just on the regular.”