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Originally published November 19, 2011 at 8:05 PM | Page modified November 20, 2011 at 12:46 PM

Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch: Funny, fierce and utterly unique

Running back has a Beast Mode alter ego, but the there's another side of Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch that's more funny than fierce.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Sunday

Seahawks @ St. Louis, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 13

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The hit had to hurt. That was apparent to anyone who saw Marshawn Lynch go down last Sunday.

"He got stuck by a linebacker pretty good," Seahawks tight end Zach Miller said. "And the first thing he does is he stands up and starts screaming in excitement."

Welcome to the Marshawn Lynch Experience, where the volume's always cranked up to 11, the script is being written on the fly, and the only thing certain is that whatever Lynch does will be as unexpected as it is entertaining.

He is a free spirit and a fierce runner who has scored a touchdown in his last five starts entering Sunday's game in St. Louis, and he comes with an alter ego. Meet Beast Mode, which isn't a nickname so much as a state of mind for Lynch's relentlessly aggressive style when running the ball or cracking a joke.

"He has so much enthusiasm," Miller said, "and he's kind of crazy with it."

Lynch is becoming the face of Seattle's team with a smile that includes two gold teeth and one sweet tooth. He asked fullback Michael Robinson for candy during last week's game.

"He wanted to know where his Skittles were," Robinson said.

Lynch was the last player introduced before last week's game against Baltimore, he drew the loudest cheers at CenturyLink Field, and he'll be the first player the Rams will try to stop Sunday afternoon. He has gained more than 100 yards in each of the past two games, the first Seahawk in three years to do that. And as he enters the final two months of his rookie contract, it's becoming obvious just how important he is inside Seattle's locker room as well as to its offense.

"He has a great spirit about him," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "It's one that is unique, contagious, attractive."

Lynch, 25, is very much in the prime of his career. His 67-yard touchdown run was the defining moment of Seattle's playoff upset of the Saints last year. That was the Beast Quake. Last Sunday, he unleashed the Beast Shake, evading Ray Lewis and another Ravens defender to get a first down.

There's nothing understated about Lynch, though his eyes are covered by a visor on his helmet and he talks quietly in interviews.

He calls reporters "boss," wears a collared golf shirt under his football pads for practice and puts shorts over his sweats. Sometimes in games, he rhythmically taps his thigh pads once, twice and then claps his hands in a paddy-cake ritual that dates back to Pop Warner football. Two weeks ago he practiced with a towel hanging out the back of his helmet like some sort of minicape.

If the Seahawks had a yearbook, Lynch would be voted most likely to make his teammates laugh. His charisma is difficult to describe, but impossible to fake.

"He really does love people," said Charlie Whitehurst, Seattle's backup quarterback, "and he loves entertaining people."

That's appreciated, too. By Whitehurst's mom. Sorry, Charlie, but Lynch is her favorite Seahawk.

Remember when Lynch's California Golden Bears beat the Washington Huskies in overtime when Tyrone Willingham was UW's coach? Well, Lynch celebrated that victory by commandeering a golf cart and driving it erratically around the field, a scene that can be seen on YouTube.

"That gets watched annually at our house," Whitehurst said.

Lynch has become an essential part of Seattle's chemistry, which came as something of a surprise even to his teammates.

"He's probably one of the most misunderstood players in the National Football League," said Robinson, whose locker is next to Lynch's. "Before I met him — and I tell him this to his face — I had my own preconceived notions of him. I thought he was some type of troublemaker, lazy."

Where did Lynch's reputation come from? The former first-round pick by Buffalo played in the Pro Bowl, but a week later was arrested on a misdemeanor weapons charge for carrying a concealed firearm and suspended for three games in 2009. A year earlier, Lynch also received a traffic citation in Buffalo after admitting to driving away after hitting a pedestrian.

But when Lynch arrived in Seattle after last year's trade, Robinson found out what Seattle is also learning: Reality goes much deeper than reputation.

"I got to know him," Robinson said. "He's a big kid, man. He likes to have fun. He's a special, special athlete ... and he has a great heart."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @dannyoneil.

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