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Marshawn Lynch got his start in football at Oakland Technical High School, where I go to school. Coaches at Oakland Tech say he was an amazing player, even as a freshman — his picture is up in the classrooms, and everyone knows he went to Tech. Lynch led our school to Oakland’s inter-league championship game. He got a full ride to play football at UC Berkeley in 2004, and then went on to the NFL.
A couple years in, Lynch made a name for himself on the Seattle Seahawks with one big play during a playoff game against the New Orleans Saints. He ran 67 yards for a touchdown and broke through nine tackles along the way. The play became known as the “Beast Quake” because fans shook the stadium with their excitement.
Oakland Tech’s Coach K.C. O’Keith — who groomed Lynch in high school — felt that same energy here in Oakland.”He went ballistically crazy, do you hear me? That’s BeastMode. Crushing your opponent, breaking their will to run, or play, and saying ‘Get outta my way!’,” O’Keith recalled.
Like so many teachers and students here, Coach O’Keefe has lots of love for Lynch because he started a foundation and a football camp for kids, and because he’s a constant presence in the community.
Lynch doesn’t only use this “Beast Mode” persona on the field. He told ESPN that he used it all his life growing up in Oakland. Kids in Oakland admire Lynch because he pushed past poverty, and other struggles in his childhood, to succeed.
Junior James Bailey says for him and other kids from the neighborhood, Lynch is a role model. “When he comes up in the starting lineup in TV — he says, ‘North Oakland, California!’ So I’m in love with when he says that,” said Bailey.
Another classmate, Bessie Zolno, added “I think his whole career and everything that he stands for just shows that no matter what your background is, and no matter where you come from socially or economically, or geographically, that you can succeed if you work at it hard enough.”
Lynch’s popularity cuts across ethnicities, including non sports fans. Oakland Tech junior Ty’anna Davis has worked with Lynch on Thanksgiving food drives, and she says media outlets tend to highlight his mistakes. “They try to show him as this ignorant typical black boy from Oakland who’s ghetto or whatever, but he’s actually a really great person,” said Davis.
But not everyone loves Lynch. He’s gotten a bad reputation in the media for refusing to answer questions in press conferences. In 2012, he was arrested for a DUI. And he’s been fined repeatedly for violations on and off the field.
San Jose Mercury News sports columnist Mark Purdy says it doesn’t bother him that Lynch won’t talk to the media. “That’s ok I guess,” said Purdy. “But I don’t see where that gets you. I don’t know how that helps promote the good stuff that he does in the community, or in Oakland’s case, the good stuff that goes on in Oakland.”
I may not be into football, but like Marshawn Lynch, I’m all about reppin’ Oakland. So maybe I’ll even watch him in the Superbowl along with my family this Sunday.