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Marshawn Lynch’s grandpa: Running back would rather retire than deal with media

If there’s anyone who knows Marshawn Lynch it’s Leron Lynch, the Seattle Seahawks running back’s maternal grandfather. Lynch’s father, Maurice Sapp, has been in and out of prison throughout the 28-year-old’s life and currently is serving a 24-year sentence for burglary.

But through it all, “Papa” — how Lynch refers to his grandfather — has been a constant presence in the running back’s life.

“He would call me Papa, and I took him to practice, and I would buy cleats and did everything,” Lynch’s grandfather told USA TODAY Sports. “Anytime he needed anything, at school or anything, he’d call me.”

This longtime bond between grandfather and grandson give the elder Lynch, 73, keen insight in what makes the oft-misunderstood, enigmatic running back tick.

Papa discussed his grandson’s aversion to dealing with the media, relating a story from Lynch’s high school days that may have set the stage for Lynch’s unsteady relationship with the media. It involved Papa telling his grandson to simply keep his mouth shut no matter the circumstances.

In fact, he believes that lesson is such a firmly ingrained aspect of Lynch’s personality that it remains present to this day. So much so that Papa believes Lynch would just as soon retire and leave the game he loves in order to avoid the microscopic media attention routinely focused upon him, despite the fact Lynch has and continues to be uncooperative at best, standoffish at worst, with reporters.

“I know he’ll quit,” Papa said. “If everybody keeps standing in his face like that and makes him talk, he’ll walk away. He loves to play the game, but he’ll walk away. I know he will.

“I don’t even know why people would want to interview him. If he doesn’t talk, he’s just going to give you one word. So who would want to interview somebody that’s not going to talk. So I don’t know why people don’t just back off. … The more they want him to talk, the less he’s going to want to talk.

“He don’t like all them lights and cameras in his face. He never did. Even in high school. He would make five touchdowns in a game. They would come up to him with the microphones and stuff. But he just don’t want to take no glory for this stuff. I used to tell him all the time, ‘There’s going to come a time when you’ve got to leave all your friends. You’re up here; you’re above them.’ And he would tell me, ‘Ah, Papa, I ain’t up there. I’m just a team player.’

“He used to tell me that all the time, that he was a team player. He says, ‘Watch me on the field. I’ll do all my talking on the field.'”

With Lynch set to be a free agent after the season and the Seahawks perhaps open to moving on, Papa seriously believes that his complicated grandson simply may quit the game instead of continuing to deal with all the annoyances that go along with being a professional football player.

Things such as being forced to uncomfortably interact with the media — as evidenced by his performance at Super Bowl Media Day on Tuesday — still trouble Lynch and may make being an NFL player not worth it. All the scrutiny, criticism and fines — or threats of them — are all unfortunate consequences of Lynch arguably remaining true to himself.

“He’d rather pay the money than talk,” Papa said about his grandson’s history of running afoul of the NFL’s disciplinary gestapo (here and here). “Shoot, he’s grabbing his crotch. He just does this stuff.

“When he comes home after the season is over, when I go over there and catch him one-on-one, then I’m going to talk to him about a lot of things.”

(photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)