Delisa Lynch is in a mama mode all her own
Nicole Brodeur chats with Marshawn Lynch’s mother, Delisa, about her son’s running style, the media and being an NFL parent.
Seattle Times columnist
It’s no secret: Marshawn Lynch is not a big talker.
The Seahawks running back only spent six minutes talking with reporters on Super Bowl Media Day last Tuesday.
“I’m just about that action, Boss,” he explained to Deion Sanders of NFL Media, from behind sunglasses and a hooded windbreaker. “I ain’t never seen no talking winning nothing. Been like that since I was little. I was raised like that.
“You want something, you go get it. Ain’t no need to talk about it.”
On the phone from his home in Elk Grove, Calif., Lynch’s grandfather, Leron, couldn’t have been prouder.
“That’s right!” he said of Lynch’s few words. “Because Poppa wouldn’t let him talk! I told him, ‘I don’t want to hear you say nothing! You go get that ball and come back.’ ”
So how then, to explain Lynch’s mother, Delisa?
The 49-year-old single mother of four is a one-woman cheerleading squad, a no-secrets, quick-to-laugh, 9-to-5er who will surely tell you more than you asked for.
A few days after the Seahawks won the NFC Championship, I got “Mama Lynch” on the phone from Oakland, where she was standing in line at the grocery store.
She had just gotten off from her job as a maintenance supervisor for AT&T, but couldn’t talk until she had finished with her carpool.
No matter that her son signed a four-year, $31 million contract with the Seahawks in 2011.
“Babe, I still go to Wal-Mart and Target and Sears,” she assured me. “I go to Macy’s only if they have a sale. I am not one of them flamboyant women. I am surrounded by women like that. It don’t bother me, I just laugh at them.”
Delisa Lynch set track records at Oakland Technical High School, but she never took her athletic skill any further.
Instead, she passed it onto her children: David, who she had when she was a senior in high school; and then her three children by former husband, Maurice Sapp. Marshawn, now 27, was the first.
The marriage didn’t last and Sapp eventually went to prison.
“I don’t even know what he did,” Delisa Lynch said. “But that’s the choice his father made. We didn’t make it for him. He made it for himself.”
Said Delisa’s father, Leron: “She used to call me crying at night. I would tell her, ‘Go get in the bed with one of the kids. Spend your time with the kids. Forget about him. You don’t have control over him, but what you do control is the kids.’ ”
And so she did, putting them in sports programs to keep them safe, focused and off the streets of Oakland while she worked at Long’s Drugs during the day and Federal Express at night.
Marshawn was 7 years old and playing defense on his Pop Warner football team when Leron Lynch — whose son and Marshawn’s uncle, Lorenzo Lynch, also played in the NFL for 12 years — stopped by a practice and told the coach to take his grandson off the line, give him the ball and let him run.
“The next day, they let Marshawn run back a kickoff and he got the ball and ran for a touchdown,” Leron Lynch remembered. “And he has been running ever since. He runs like that because football is still a game for him and he just loves the game. He is still having fun out there.”
Delisa Lynch wishes she could say the same. Fans thrill at seeing her son run 100 yards per game, but as a mother, well, it can get a little nerve-wracking.
When Marshawn was playing for the University of California, Berkeley, “Mama Lynch” was in a Beast Mode all her own, pacing “back and forth” in the stands while her son plowed up and down the field.
“I could never sit in my seat,” she recalled. “It was a little hard for me.”
Now, she sits still — but still frets.
“When he runs, I cringe,” she said. “It is just something that I have been doing, because I see my baby taking hits.
“But that is the blessing — he gets through,” she said. “He keeps his feet churning. I have heard a lot of the commentators say that same thing. He just keeps his feet pumping.”
Living and working in Oakland means that Lynch has a lot of friends who are fans of the Oakland Raiders or the San Francisco 49ers. They talk all kinds of smack on Facebook and at work, but Lynch won’t have any of it.
“This is ‘Town Business’ because this is my son,” she said, using an Oakland phrase that captures Lynch’s loyalty to his origins and fan base there.
“If you guys want me to put on a different jersey, then you should have drafted him.”
When he was 12, he made her a promise: “Mama, when I get grown,” he said, “I’m gonna go into the NFL and buy you a house.”
Sure enough, when he signed with the Buffalo Bills in 2007, he called her and told her to go pick one out, which she did. She also got herself a Chrysler 300.
But that’s as fancy as she gets.
“I am still living the same way I was living.”
The family has started the Fam First Foundation, which sponsors free football camps for underprivileged kids from Oakland, and donates Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas toys and school supplies to families in need.
“It’s just a matter of giving back,” Delisa Lynch said. “You always want to remember where you came from.”
The foundation will also benefit from the sale of special Seahawks-theme Skittles — the candy Marshawn Lynch has been eating since his Pop Warner days, reportedly to settle his stomach. Skittles will pay Lynch an endorsement fee, and donate $10,000 to the foundation for every touchdown he scores at the Super Bowl.
Beyond that, Delisa Lynch would like to start a blog or a phone line that explains the game to women who haven’t been raised on football, like she was.
“There are a lot of women who want to watch the game, but they don’t understand what is going on,” she said. “I want to start ‘1-800 Dial Mama Lynch’ so they can watch the game with their husbands without bugging them. I could write a blog about what happens when they get in those huddles.
“Because I know exactly what is going on.”
Just the other week, there were photos of a woman rumored to be Marshawn’s girlfriend — and pregnant. One site says she is due in April.
“No, no, no,” Delisa Lynch said. “He’s not having no children. Who is she?”
Says online that she’s a model, grew up in Bellevue. She’s got a couple of pistols tattooed on her hips.
“I ain’t never met nobody like that. That ain’t my baby’s girlfriend. One thing about Marshawn, if he has a girlfriend, his Mama knows it. His Mama will meet her.
“That’s probably just a rumor, and that is why Marshawn doesn’t talk to the media,” she said. “He says they turn everything around.”
“You can believe it if it comes out of Mama’s mouth.”
Nicole Brodeur: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Nicole & Co.
Every Sunday, I bring you a conversation with a local who is doing something great, or a great who is doing something local: media personalities, big thinkers, visiting artists, colorful characters and doers of all kinds.
email@example.com | 206-464-2334