Marshawn Lynch was born ob April 22, 1986, in Oakland, California. (Click here for a complete listing of today's sports birthdays.) He was raised by his single mother, Delisa Lynch, who came from an athletic family. Delisa had been a sprinter in high school. Her brother, Lorenzo, was a college football star in the mid-1980s and later went on to play defensive back in the NFL for 11 seasons. Marshawn was the middle of two brothers, between David and Davonte. They also had a sister, Mareesha.
Marshawn’s mother worked multiple jobs to keep food on the table, as the family struggled to make it during his boyhood years. She encouraged her kids to participate in sports year-round, makingthem attend one another’s games to keep them off the streets. Marshawn was quick and muscular. In youth league football games, he usually played on the line. His Pop Warner coach nicknamed him “Man Child.”
Marshawn and his cousin, Robert Jordan, both became standout high school players. Marshawn attended Oakland Technical, while Jordan went to Hayward High, about 20 minutes south. Another cousin, quarterback Josh Johnson, was a teammate of Marshawn’s on the Bulldogs. All three would one day play in the pros.
Marshawn became a starter for Oakland as a sophomore and earned all-league honors as a running back three years in a row. He also played quarterback, linebacker and defensive back. In his junior year, Marshawn rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored 20 touchdowns. As a senior, he ran for more than 2,000 yards in 10 games, and scored 33 touchdowns. He also picked off 20 passes on defense.
In 2003, Marshawn led the Bulldogs to the East Bay “Silver Bowl” championship game for just the second time in school history. He rushed for 233 yards and six touchdowns against heavily favored Skyline High School in a 55–47 victory. One year earlier, Skyline had won this same game, 47–0. By season’s end, Marshawn was the top-ranked prep running back in the state and the #3 overall high school prospect.
Marshawn and Johnson decided they wanted to stay local for college and marketed themselves to recruiters as a package deal. They zeroed in on the University of California. Marshawn was warned that he might not be able to keep up with the academics, but he accepted this challenge and joined the Jeff Tedford’s Golden Bears as a freshman in 2004. He made his debut against Air Force, running for 92 yards on only seven carries.
The ’04 season saw Marshawn work as JJ Arrington’s backup. He carried the ball a handful of times a game, as well as returning kicks. He had back-to-back 100-yard efforts against Washington and Stanford and finished the season with 628 yards on 71 carries. He also caught 19 passess for 147 yards and totaled 10 touchdowns on the year. The Golden Bears went 10–1 in the regular season, but lost 45–31 to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. Even so, they ended the year with a Top 10 national ranking.
Marshawn became a starter as a sophomore in 2005 and finished third in the PAC 10 in rushing with 1,246 yards. He missed two games because of a hand injury and took over kick-return duties in the second half of the campaign. Despite a strong finish by Marshawn, the Golden Bears lost steam after a 5–0 start and finished the regular season at 7–4.
Cal managed to salvage a lost season with a 35–28 win over Brigham Young in the Las Vegas Bowl. Marshawn ran for 194 yards and scored three times in the game, while receiver DeSean Jackson caught two scoring passes. The win boosted Cal into the Top 25 to end the year.
ON THE RISE
Marshawn took it to a whole new level in 2006. On a per-game basis, he led the conference in rushing yards and all-purpose yards, and found the end zone 15 times. After a Week 1 loss to Tennessee, Cal reeled off eight straight wins. They finished the year 9–3, and Marshawn was named the PAC 10 Offensive Player of the Year and earned First-Team All-America honors. The Golden Bears then trounced Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl, 45–10.
In what would be Marshawn’s final college game, he ran for 111 yards and scored twice against the Aggies. He and QB Nate Longshore shared MVP honors. With his 1,326 yards as a junior, his three-year total at Cal was 3,230 yards. He also caught 68 passes for 600 yards. Marshawn scored 35 touchdowns as a Golden Bear.
Marshawn declared for the 2007 NFL draft and was snapped up by the Buffalo Bills with the #12 pick. The first overal pick was Jamarcus Russell, who was a cousin of Marshawn’s. Russell would turn out to be one of the league’s biggest busts ever.
Marshawn played in 13 games as a rookie and gained 1,115 yards with seven touchdowns. His best game came against the Cincinnati Bengals. Marshawn ran for 153 yards, including a 56-yard TD run. The Bills finished the year 7–9. They lost two of the three games Marshawn sat out due to an ankle injury.
In 2008, Marshawn became a bigger part of the team’s passing game. He had 47 receptions and also topped 1,000 yards on the ground. Fred Jackson saw more snaps in the Buffalo backfield, and the duo totaled more than 1,500 yards and 80 receptions.The Bills went 7–9 again, missing the playoffs for the ninth year in a row.
After the season, Marshawn was arrested after a car he was in was searched and found to contain a backpack with a 9mm handgun. He pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon and received three years probation and 80 hours of community service. The NFL suspended him for the first three games of the 2009 season.
By the tim, Marshawn got back on the field, Jackson was tearing it up for Buffalo. Coach Dick Jauron decided to stick with Jackson, and Marshawn started fewer than half the remaining games. He finished the year with 450 yards on only 120 caries. He failed to reach triple-digits in any of the 13 games he played. The Bills finished 6–10, and Jauron didn't last the year.
A preseason ankle injury sidelined Marshawn to start the 2010 campaign. After playing in four games, he was dealt to Seattle for a pair of draft picks. The Seahawks weren’t exactly a powerhouse club, but playing in a weak division, they managed to make the playoffs with a 7–9 record. Marshawn played 12 games for Seattle and led the team and agined 573 yards. Second on the club was Justin Forsett, a friend and teammate at Cal..
MAKING HIS MARK
Marshawn suited up for his first NFL playoff game in January of 2011, a Wild Card meeting with the New Orleans Saints, the defending Super Bowl champs. The Seahawks erased a 10–0 deficit and built a lead in the second half. New Orleans came roaring back and trailed 34–30 in the fourth quarter.
Marshawn nailed down the surprise win when he rumbled for a 67-yard touchdown, breaking nine tackles on the way to the end zone. The home crowd’s reaction was so loud that it actually registered on a nearby seismic sensor.The final score was 41–36. Marshawn ran for 131 yards on 19 carries.
The following week, Seattle’s run ended in Chicago. The Bears led 28–3 after three quarters and withstood a fourth-quarter comeback to win, 35–24. Chicago’s early lead forced Matt Hasselbeck to pass on almost every play, which in turn took Marshawn out of the game almmost completely.
Marshawn’s first full season in Seattle was his best to date. In 2011, he rushed for 1,204 yards and caught 28 passes for another 212 yards. He scored a total of 13 touchdowns, including a TD in a franchise-record 10 games in a row. The Seahawks finished 7–9 again, but missed the playoffs. Gone was Hasselbeck, and his replacements simply did not get the job done.
Coach Pete Carroll made a big decision in 2012, handing the starting quarterback reins to rookie Russell Wilson. He responded with a stellar 3,000-yard passing campaign, throwing for 26 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions. A big part of Wilson’s success was Marshawn’s work on the ground. He carried the ball 315 times and gained 1,590 yards, topping 100 yards 10 times.
The Seahawks got off to a promising start, splitting their first eight games. After that, the won 7 of their final 8 to finish 11–5. In a December blowout against the Arizona Cardinals, Marshawn ran for 128 yards on 11 carries and scored three times. The following week he ran for more than 100 yards against his old teammates in Buffalo. The Seahawks scored 108 points in the two games.
Marshawn’s great year earned him First Team All-Pro honors. But he had his eye on a bigger prize—a Super Bowl berth.
In the opening round of the playoffs, Seattle travelled to Washington for a much-anticipated matchup with Robert Griffin III and the Redskins. The Seahawks gave up two quick touchdowns but scored the next 24 points to win by 10. Marshawn scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 27-yard run. He totaled 124 yards on the day.
Next up were the Atlanta Falcons. Down 27–7 in the fourth quarter, Seattle made a historic comeback to take a 28–27 lead. But the Falcons won 30–28 on a Matt Bryant field goal to break the hearts of Seahawks fans.
IIt would have been fun to see Marshawn in a Super Bowl. Not just in the big game, but in the week leading up to it. Though not known for his interview skills, he would have had a ball during media week. That is something Seattle fans are hoping they see next year. They have already been on the winning end of one of the great trades in team history. Now they are waiting to hit the jackpot.
MARSHAWN THE PLAYER
Tackling Marshawn is no fun. He has earned the respect of opponents for his willingness to give as good as he gets. Between his speed and size, he almost always comes out on the plus end of collisions. Often he will crash head-on into a defensive back rather than angling out of bounds—he doesn't just enjoy contact, he seems to actually seek it out.
Between the hashmarks, Marshawn is always good for a couple of extra yards after getting hit. He is also adept and getting yards on his own when there is no blocking.Marshawn starts from a wide stance and high-steps his way through traffic. On his long runs, he combines jukes, fakes, spins, pile-driving hits, stiff-arms and sprinter's speed.
Despite his playful, gangsta-rap persona, Marshawn has what coaches call a high football IQ. He understands the game on a level beyond most running backs, probably because he had been a standout at multiple positions as a teenager. Though not a classic rah-rah guy, he gets teammates fired up through his efforts and by his game-changing runs.
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