NO FOOTBALL FAN—OR HUMAN BEING FOR THAT MATTER—HAS PROPERLY NAVIGATED YOUTUBE WITHOUT HAVING ENJOYED AT LEAST 30 MINUTES BROWSING THE SEARCH TERM "MARSHAWN LYNCH." WANT to watch maybe the most thrilling run in NFL playoff history? It's the first video. A touchdown celebration that involves zipping across the field in an injury cart? That's there too. How about a demonstration of how somebody—anybody—can actually enjoy himself or herself in a Buffalo Applebee's? Marshawn loves the ambiance and the decor. Heck, they even let him pour his own drink.
Seahawks running backs coach Sherman Smith is most familiar with the runs that make the fans scream "Beast Mode" and the one that YouTube commenters proclaim "the best seven-yard run ever." Entering his fourth season overseeing Lynch, Smith remains floored at how the 27-year-old can both bulldoze over linebackers and outrun cornerbacks.
"He is that guy that can get something out of nothing," Smith says. "I have never seen a player extract more out of runs that looked like they were going nowhere. They happen so often."
The originator of Beast Mode, Lynch is not only one of the most watchable players in the league, but also one of the most valuable. Be it his elusiveness, his ferocious running style or his dogged determination to find extra yards and never fumble, Lynch is one of the most feared and respected running backs in the NFL—and in fantasy. It's just a bonus that he does most of it with a grin full of gold teeth while subsisting on a diet of Skittles in between series.
Lynch earned his third Pro Bowl selection in 2012 after rushing for 1,590 yards—good for third in the NFL—and 11 touchdowns. And now that the agile Russell Wilson heads the Seattle offense instead of the immobile Matt Hasselbeck (or any of the glorified backups in between), Lynch is arguably the most potent threat on one of the league's most explosive offenses.
"It sure helps that we have Russell being such a threat as a runner," Smith says. "Marshawn's totals went up because now everybody is contributing. Defenses can't just key in on stopping 24." With playmaking receiver Percy Harvin arriving in Seattle from Minnesota, the Seahawks add yet another weapon that should free up more space for a running back coming off a career year.
Talk to Smith, and he doesn't merely think Lynch is improving, he knows that he is entering the prime of his career. "Marshawn is the most talented running back I have ever coached," says Smith, a 19-year veteran who coached 10,000-yard rusher Eddie George for eight seasons between Houston and Tennessee. "He and Eddie are both so talented, but they're different. Marshawn can score anytime he touches the ball. He's a touchdown waiting to happen."
If Seattle's stunning 2012 offensive production was any preview of what is coming this season, Lynch will have plenty to add to his YouTube highlights by the end of '13. And instead of flashing gold teeth, this time he may be flashing a Super Bowl ring.