He grew up in Oakland in a household that lacked a father-figure. Nevertheless, he managed to stay out of trouble and develop his athletic skills, mainly due to his drive and strength of character. His drive to succeed led him to high school stardom, and a chance to play in the Pac-10 at Berkeley.
He seized the opportunity, and professional scouts noticed. A fan-favorite at the college level, he decided to forgo his senior year and realize his dream at the next level.
Marshawn Lynch took this route to the NFL, and achieved his childhood dream. Yet Lynch has been in trouble with the law twice in the past 12 months, and has now been suspended from going "Beast Mode" for three games.
Lynch is in some ways the anti-Terrell Owens.
Owens exudes arrogance and immaturity. He doesn't support teammates when things go south on the field. His need for attention and tantrums are rivaled by only a few players in the NFL.
Lynch, on the other hand, always seems to wear a goofy smile that shows off his grill. He doesn't blame teammates for a loss, especially when he heavily contributed to it. He tries to loosen up his teammates before games with jokes.
Yet for all T.O.'s issues, he has never been arrested or investigated by the police as Lynch has.
As many others have said, Lynch is not Adam "Pacman" Jones. But Lynch would be wise to follow the path of former Oakland Tech basketball teammate and fellow Cal star, Leon Powe.
Powe grew up under circumstances similar to (but worse than) those of Lynch. He, like Lynch, never joined a gang or sold drugs. He took care of his brothers and sisters when his mother was unable to, and neglected his basketball talent to be helpful to the family. Lynch's "family first" motto was also practiced by Powe.
However, when he was in his teens, Powe had begun to hang out with a friend who was making trouble. Luckily for Leon, he met his friend's older step-brother, who helped channel Powe's goals to making good grades and excelling on the court.
Powe's friend ended up with multiple prison sentences. It was a wake-up call that Powe took to heart, and Leon has never been anything but a role model for the Oakland community and the Bay Area since that time.
Like Powe, Lynch is active in charity events. Marshawn also recently bought his mother the house she promised. Most importantly, he has expressed remorse for his actions over the past year, and has stepped up to take a more proactive role in ensuring that he won't be involved in anything similar in the future.
Lynch is still popular in the Bay Area and at Cal. But he has a chance to become a legend by following the example of Leon Powe, and responding when confronted with an issue that reflects poorly on his character.
Fair or not, the only way Marshawn can silence most of his critics, especially those in Buffalo that haven't followed Marshawn's career since high school or college, is probably to be what Powe is—a model citizen. Powe still remembers where he came from, and has impacted both the Bay Area and his reputation positively.
If nothing else, staying out of trouble will allow Lynch to do what he enjoys the most, going "Stupid Fast" on the gridiron.