The first time I saw Marshawn Lynch, I was glad that he was only a freshman, because I knew that he would be gone after his junior year. He was that good, and it was that obvious. Watching him run, it was clear that he was the best player on the field, and sometimes it wasn’t close. Whenever he got the ball, you just held your breath, because you began to expect that something crazy and spectacular would happen, and it often did. It’s one thing to be faster than would-be tacklers, but to be stronger than them too? Not fair. Not fair at all. Throw in an incredibly sure set of hands, and you had yourself one hell of a back.
Still, this doesn’t quite capture what makes Marshawn so much fun to watch. I was reminded of this in the fourth quarter of the Holiday Bowl, with the game already under control and the Bears up by 18 and driving. Facing a second and five on the A&M 20, Cal is well within Tom Schneider’s range. A touchdown would be nice, but a field goal is all that’s needed to essentially end this game. The handoff goes to Lynch, and he goes right. Not much there, maybe two yards, but Marshawn wants it all. His legs keep churning as a breaks a tackle and heads for the corner. Another man hits him, but even in going down, he keeps going forward. Eight yard gain, first down California! Though no one knew it at the time (except maybe Tedford), it would be his last carry as a Golden Bear. A simple play where he made something out of nothing by refusing to go down, this typified what we came to expect from Marshawn Lynch.
While writing this post, I was reminded of the mantra used by former Cal football coach Joe Kapp, inspiring, among other things, The Play.
"The Bear will not quit, the Bear will not die."
I can’t think of anything that describes Marshawn’s running style better than this. The man just refused to be tackled. He would dance and juke and spin and just plain run over and through the opposition in a never-ending quest for the end zone. Sometimes, to the chagrin of fans (and surely Coach Tedford), his refusal to go down resulted in a three yard loss instead of a stop at the line of scrimmage. But more often, he would dance and spin and find a hole and make 8 yards for the first down where lesser backs would have taken a loss. And let’s not forget that the man has one hell of a stiff-arm.
We’ll all miss Marshawn as he spends next fall in the NFL, but I don’t think anyone can argue that he’s not ready for the pros. Physically, he was ready two years ago. The time was right for him to leave, and I wish him the best of luck at the next level. Go Bears!