We knew why he was here.

Love him or hate him, Marshawn Lynch left an indelible mark not just on the game of football, but on sports culture as a whole. And all he did was be himself: no acts, no off-the-field persona, just pure, unadulterated Marshawn Lynch.

His retirement announcement was the same. Lynch tweeted a photo of hanging cleats in the middle of Super Bowl 50 with just the peace-sign emoji as the caption. No one was sure if the announcement was official, but the outpouring of tweets from Seattle teammates and from the Seahawks organization indicated that Lynch was walking away from the game. With one picture and a chuck of the deuce, he’s gone.

In a time when athletes are looked at like wind-up dolls–to perform when we want to see them, speak when we want to hear them–Lynch went against the grain. His contentious relationship with the media has been as well-documented as much as his love for Skittles, as he’d say as little as possible or nothing at all out of fear that his words might get misconstrued. “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” is now a famous statement. Some viewed his declaration as distasteful and disrespectful, and it probably was. But it was also real.

All Lynch wanted to do was play football. Drafted by the Buffalo Bills with the 12th pick in 2007, Lynch’s career surged after he was traded to Seattle in 2010. Unfortunately for him, being a successful professional athlete comes with media obligations. It was easy for us media pundits to feel slighted when he refused to answer questions. It was his job to play football, it was our job to report on his job. But Lynch wasn’t concerned with our job, his sole focus was on how to do his job to the best of his ability. That’s not right, that’s not wrong, that’s just who he is.

Lynch was as unapologetic on the field as he was off of it. His running-style made for incredible entertainment as he would actually seek contact because he was intent on running through his opponent. The way he’d throw defenders off of him with a vicious stiff-arm was a breath of fresh air in today’s age of NFL running backs who rely on flashy jukes and spins to avoid contact. Through countless would-be tacklers left in his wake, Lynch gave us countless memories of his on-field ferocity, vision and speed. 9,112 rushing yards, 74 touchdowns and these two epic runs that embodied everything “Beast Mode” was about.

Shouldn’t that be his legacy? Not our hurt feelings over his contempt for journalism. That should be an afterthought. Lynch’s stats speak for themselves. He was selected to five Pro Bowls and helped lead the Seahawks to victory in Super Bowl XLVIII. Lynch did his job and when it was time to go, he said goodbye.

But his overgrown legacy didn’t stop on the gridiron. Lynch also did a ton of charity work in Seattle and in his hometown of Oakland, California. He worked with children in youth football camps. He’s been a mentor to a lot of children to teach them about the sport but also about life. Education and self-esteem improvements were two of the biggest aims of his Fam 1st Family Foundation. His charity work went largely unreported by the media, as it should have; Lynch didn’t do charity for the sake of headlines. But if we reported and analyzed all of his contentious experiences with reporters, shouldn’t we have given at least some ink to the good things he’s done and continues to do for his community?

Lynch should be remembered for the heart and ferocity with which he played the game of football. “Beast Mode” was about never quitting, never relenting; lessons that should be taught to everyone and applied in all aspects of life. Thank you, Marshawn, for embodying the Beast we all wish we could become.

That’s why he was here.

Powered by WordPress.com VIP