Breaking News
More () »

Teammates: Inside Marshawn Lynch is a huge heart

Lynch rewards his offensive lineman and gives inner-city kids from his hometown of Oakland trips to Seattle to watch practice.
Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch talks with linebacker Bruce Irvin during a game at CenturyLink Field, Dec. 28, 2014.

RENTON, Wash. — Here's the Marshawn Lynch few know: The rebellious, ruthless running back known as "Beast Mode" is not a beast at all.

"He's got the biggest heart in the world. Nobody knows it, which is frustrating to us," Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman told USA TODAY Sports. "He really couldn't care if anybody else knew outside of this locker room."

Lynch, through a spokesman, declined to be interviewed by USA TODAY Sports. But his team offered its view.

"He has a lot to say and he has a lot to say in his silence, too," coach Pete Carroll said. "He's telling you a lot. He's a very private person, but an extraordinarily engaging guy when he's in comfortable settings. He's dedicated to helping others and later in life wants to continue helping kids. He's extraordinarily loyal. His teammates love and admire him for making the stands he does."

Lynch lavishes offensive linemen with $5,000 watches or brand-name luggage as thank-yous for helping to make his job easier. On Saturdays, he flies inner-city kids from his Oakland, Calif., hometown to Seahawks practice, then takes them inside the locker room hoping to steer them from the streets.

"Marshawn sees himself in those kids," Sherman said. "He doesn't do it for attention. He's just in it for the joy."

Two years ago, undrafted free agent tight end Cooper Helfet — a South African native raised in the Bay Area — needed a place to crash.

"We're from the same area, talked the same, listen to the same music and became friends," Helfet said. "He's always there for his brothers, humble and philanthropic."

Lynch is widely known beyond the locker room as a rebel. Many see the guy, who was fined $11,050 for grabbing his crotch at the end of his 79-yard touchdown run in a Dec. 21 win at the Arizona Cardinals.

Lynch also is known for his brief responses to news reporters' questions. When asked about that career-long run at the time, Lynch answered "Thank you" to each question. Carrying on a theme from a year ago, Lynch was fined $100,000 in November for repeated violations of the league's media policy requiring star players to speak at least once a week.

"For Marshawn to get banged for not wanting to talk to the media is the stupidest thing ever," linebacker Cliff Avril said. "He's completely different from what people make him out to be. He makes it to everybody's charity event, imposes his will on defenses."

And, apparently, Lynch is a Good Samaritan. Receiver Ricardo Lockette was with Lynch when the running back returned a fan's wallet he found at a gas station while on the way to support students of Marysville (Wash.) Pilchuck High less than a month after a shooting there left five dead.

"People who criticize him don't see him returning that wallet or paying people's bills," Lockette said. "They only see his dreads, gold teeth and loud music. He's about encouraging kids to have a better life."

The perception is the Seahawks will look to a younger replacement for the 28-year-old back who has one year remaining on a four-year, $31 million deal that will pay him $7 million in 2015. After a weeklong holdout because Lynch wanted more up-front money after leading the team to a Super Bowl title, management reworked his deal to give him $1.5 million more in guaranteed money.

"We'd love to have him back," Carroll has said.

Lynch frequently blasts his stereo at his locker to drown out questions. There is no question teammates will ride with him as long as possible.

"Everybody just assumes we don't want him back," Sherman said. "The thing about our team, since the media can't get a lot of sound bites, since they can't get a guy to say what they want, they just make it up. They'll say 'Sources said,' and they'll make up stories. They'll make up somebody in the locker room said, 'Russell Wilson wasn't black enough.' Nobody said that. You can never find a player that said it. Because nobody ever said it.

"They'll say, 'Marshawn Lynch doesn't want to be back.' And then he goes out and has the second-best year of his career."

Follow Jim Corbett on Twitter @ByJimCorbett.

Before You Leave, Check This Out