PHOENIX – The Marshawn Lynch who appeared, briefly, at his assigned podium on Media Day is not the real Marshawn Lynch.
The Seahawks' Beast Mode running back is a very private person who this week finds himself on a very large stage – the buildup to Sunday's Super Bowl XLIX matchup against the New England Patriots. And Tuesday's Media Day event at US Airways Center was just the first, albeit biggest, exercise in something Lynch simply does not like doing: Talking to the media.
To know the real Marshawn Lynch, you need to talk to those who know him.
"What I do know is he wants this to just kind of go away. He just wants to play football," Michael Robinson said between the Patriots' session and Seahawks' arrival – when reporters and cameras already were crowded 10 deep around the podium where Lynch eventually would be.
Robinson was Lynch's lead-blocking fullback from 2010-13 and had the cubicle next to him in the locker room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. They became fast friends, a relationship that led to one of Lynch's only TV interviews this season with Robinson, now an analyst for the NFL Network.
"I think sometimes because of the media and how they respond to him that how truly great he is as a football player gets lost in that," Robinson said. "I look at Marshawn in a totally different light than the way most of the media sees him."
When Robinson looks at Lynch, he sees a player who – if he leads the Seahawks to a second consecutive Super Bowl victory – is on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"If that happens, how can you not put this guy in Canton?" Robinson said. "You have to put your feelings aside, because this man will be a first-ballot selection. How can he not be? Look at what he's already done in his career."
When Robinson looks at Lynch, he also sees a friend who was there for him when a medical situation sent Robinson to the hospital at the start of last season and prevented from being able to play the sport they both love for the first seven games.
Thousands poured into downtown Phoenix Tuesday, for Super Bowl 49 Media Day featuring interviews with the Seattle Seahawks.
"Marshawn is a great friend," Robinson said. "People don't realize when I went through what I went through, he was the first person at the hospital, the first person at my bedside at home. And when my wife had to go to the store, he was there to watch my kids because I couldn't do it."
And when Robinson looks at Lynch, he also sees a new generation of NFL player.
"I don't know that there's been another player who has been a polarizing figure like Marshawn has been to this league in a long time," Robinson said. "I think he's the first of a new generation of athlete that are going to be more individualistic. They're going to be more, 'This is my way. This is just how I do things.'
"And you have to respect the guy. I know what to expect from him. He's the same person every day. And he's not going to give you anything fake. What you get with Marshawn is real."
Those characteristics are the same things Sherman Smith sees in Lynch. Smith, the Seahawks' original running back, has coached the position on Pete Carroll's staff since 2010. So he has spent countless hours with Lynch, in the meeting room, at practice and on the sideline during games.
"There is absolutely no doubt about it, Marshawn is a great guy," Smith said. "He is a fun guy and I enjoy being around him. He has his moments when he's working through some stuff, and I enjoy having the opportunity to help him work through it. But still, under the cover, what people don't see is the heart, the commitment, the loyalty, the way he plays. They don't see all of that.
"That's why I hope he would express himself, so people could see that there's a different side this guy. That's why his teammates love him. If he was a jerk, his teammates wouldn't care about him. It's not just that he plays well on Sunday; they love everything else about him, too. His teammates are a testimony to the type of guy that he is. They love him as a teammate, and we love him as coaches."
Right on cue, a few minutes later center Max Unger was at a podium across the floor at the US Airways Center supporting what Sherman had just said.
"Marshawn makes you want to do your job better, I guess is the best way to put it," Unger said. "He runs so hard. I mean you watch him and you see the strain that he has every play. I've said this before, but he's the best teammate anybody could ask for – one of my all-time favorites playing football with, in the locker room and as a person, on and off the field. I don't know what else to say about him."
But it also should be said that Lynch definitely is a unique individual and player, the kind that Carroll likes.
Asked on Monday about Lynch and his reluctance to talk to the media, Carroll offered, "Let's not miss that he is a very unique individual. He has a way that we have embraced. We understand Marshawn and support him in every way that we can. But he is a very unique guy and he's got his own way of looking at things. He's a very private person, too. So that's why the media thing is what is. It's not something where he's going to express a whole lot to you. I've said this before, there's a great deal spoken in his silence as well."
And Lynch's focus on what's really important this week is not lost on Carroll.
"I expect him to have a great Super Bowl week," he said. "I think he's going to have a great time doing this and playing in this game. It's something he really cherishes, and he cherishes playing for his teammates. We love him in the program, but he is unique. We have always celebrated the uniqueness of our players in a way that allows them to play at their best. So to have the same expectations for every single person is to miss it, and so we don't."
John Schneider expressed similar sentiments before the Seahawks left Seattle.
"He's a warrior. He goes out there every weekend and lays it on the line," the Seahawks' general manager said last Friday. "I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better running back in the National Football League."
"So you're not tired of his act?" he was asked.
Schneider cracked the slightest of smiles before saying, "I kind of love his act."
And so does everyone else who has had the opportunity to get to know the real Marshawn Lynch.
"They're looking at him from a distance," Smith said of Lynch's doubters and detractors. "We get to see him up close, so we know. And what other people can't see, we get to see what Marshawn wants us to see. And he allows us into his world to see that.
"And that's hard for him, to start trusting people and say, 'I'm going to open up with guys.' To let us do it, I'm just blessed to be a part of it and to hang out with him."