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Following each other’s lead
In the game of follow-the-leader that is the relationship between Marshawn Lynch and Michael Robinson, just who follows who?
Lynch, after all, is the Seahawks’ leading rusher entering Sunday’s game against the Bears in Chicago – and his 1,051 yards rank third in the league behind the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson (1,236) and Houston Texans’ Arian Foster (1,064). But it is Robinson who throws all those lead blocks for Lynch as his fullback.
“I follow him on the field, and he follows me off the field – with that damn camera,” Lynch said. “He always wants to put that damn camera in my face.”
Lynch is, of course, referring to the camera Robinson uses to capture those behind-the-scenes moments that are featured on his Real Rob Report. But that 28-word assessment also pretty much captures the relationship between No. 24 (Lynch) and No. 26 (Robinson).
They are comrades in well-muscled arms on the field, and brothers off the field – as Lynch goes to Robinson’s football camps in Virginia during the offseason and Robinson repays the favor by attending Lynch’s camps in Oakland.
“Mike’s cool, man,” Lynch said. “It’s more than football with us.”
Robinson concurs, offering, “Marshawn, man, that’s like my little brother. You don’t realize just how passionate he is for the game until you really get to know him. You look at his exterior. You look at how he talks sometimes. But I was totally blown away when I started to get to know him. Now, it’s like we don’t even have to talk and we’re thinking the same thing. So it’s pretty cool. It’s a pretty cool relationship.”
One that transcends the field.
“My kids love Marshawn,” said Robinson, who then added the forehead-slapper. “He’ll come babysit whenever I need him.”
Really? Marshawn Lynch, the Beast Mode-running, Skittles-popping back who can strike fear in a 250-pound linebacker babysitting?
“He’ll come babysit, and actually sit,” Robinson said. “It scared me at first. But he’ll come over and my kids love him.”
While they have a common bond on the field, and share interests as well as Robinson’s kids off the field, they are definite opposites in the locker room. At least when the media is around. While Lynch prefers to let his on-field actions speak for him, Robinson has become a spokesman for the special teams as a co-captain, the offense in general and the running game in particular.
Turning from his cubicle recently to find a group of reporters gathering around him, Robinson cracked a smile and then cracked, “I know you guys want to talk to me only because Marshawn won’t talk to you.”
What’s the attraction between these seemingly opposite personalities?
“There’s love there, man,” Robinson said. “What you have to do is get past what everybody sees. He really has a lot going for him. I tell him all the time, ‘Dude, when you’re done here, you need to get a reality (TV) show. Because, really, behind closed doors you’re totally opposite of what people think you are.’ ”
These fiercely competitive teammates who also have become close friends followed very different paths to reach the Seahawks’ backfield and locker room. Lynch is from CA – Oakland, to be exact – and went to the University of California at Berkeley. Robinson is from VA – Richmond – and went to Penn State. But they flopped Coasts to begin their NFL careers, Lynch going to the Buffalo Bills with the 12th pick in the 2007 draft; Robinson to the San Francisco 49ers with the 100th pick in the 2006 draft.
Each found his way to Seattle in 2010. Robinson was signed in early September after being released by the 49ers. Lynch was acquired from the Bills in a mid-October trade, for two middle-round draft choices.
For next-to-nothing, the Seahawks now have something special, as each player was an alternate in Pro Bowl balloting last year and ended up on the NFC squad as injury replacements. If fans and opposing players and coaches have been paying any attention at all this season, each should earn another trip to Hawaii for the NFL all-star game.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, a linebacker with the Bears during his nine-season NFL career, touched on that before the Seahawks’ Week 5 game in Carolina. Rivera called Lynch “one of the premiere backs in this league.” He also added, “He hits the crease and goes. I think his acceleration is tremendous and he’s got great vision.”
But Rivera also saw what too many often overlook: Robinson’s contributions to a running game that ranks eighth in the NFL.
“His fullback is a terrific blocker,” Rivera said. “I like the toughness that Michael Robinson shows. I like his whole attitude, the way he plays the game.”
And that might be the strongest bond that cements the relationship between Lynch and Robinson – the respect they have for each other because of the way they play the game and approach life.