May 23, 2008
It’s time to reveal this year’s Cover Story interview: it’s Marshawn Lynch.
Look, I don’t want to be accused of creating too much “hype” on Lynch. I know he’s not the most dynamic back in the league. But neither was Emmitt Smith when he played.
I wanted Lynch for a few reasons. For one, he’s going to be a high pick, likely a top-10 pick, yet I don’t think people know much about him. It’s gotta be a little odd using a #1 pick on a player you’re not that familiar with. People don’t know a lot about Lynch because he doesn’t really seek out publicity, something I talk a lot to him about in the interview.
I also wanted him on the cover because, if healthy, he has no downside and ample upside. He’s a “football player” who “brings it” on every carry, and he’s not afraid to “bang it up in there,” something that cannot be said for several young backs.
I’m still working on the article, but I’ll throw up a rough draft of the introduction because it’s interesting in how I kicked things off with Lynch after meeting him. I definitely hit it off VERY well with him, and it’s safe to say Marshawn Lynch is now my “dawg.” In fact, I was complimented by the head of PR for the Buffalo Bills, who told me he wished the team’s beat writers would “make the same type of effort to connect with our players.” My introduction to Lynch, as you’ll read below, was the talk of the Bills’ media relations department last Wednesday.
Begin article intro:
As a father of four, there is myriad of stresses in my life, but one thing I sweat particularly hard each year is our cover interview. The whole process is littered with potential pitfalls. Do I pick the right guy? Will his team or agent be helpful in securing the face time? Will the player actually agree to it and follow up? And even if the answer to all these questions is yes, will something catastrophic happen, like my cassette tape being eaten up, which actually happened to me last year (next year I’m going digital, finally)?
I like to do these in person, to get a true sense of the player, and I rarely have much time to mess around, and with plane travel usually involved, it’s basically a one-shot deal, so I almost feel as if planetary alignment is required if everything goes perfectly as planned.
As I told the budding star below, one of the reasons I really wanted to get Lynch was because he’s poised to be such a high pick in fantasy, yet not too many fantasy fans know a lot about him. Lynch isn’t someone who seeks out interviews, and in fact he shies away from them. That fact added to my stress level leading up to the interview because I didn’t know what to expect from Lynch. While watching the morning OTAs, I was chatting with Chris Brown, Bill Reporter extraordinaire, and the lead writer for Bills Digest and buffalobills.com. Brown gave me the skinny on Lynch, telling me how he may be a little hesitant to open up at first but if he warms up to and feels comfortable with me 5-10 minutes into the Q&A, he’ll be a great interview.
So as Lynch was walking off the practice field and toward me after being pointed in my direction by a Bill PR man, he had a stoic look on his face, and his guard was definitely up. So I tried to think of something to say to make a good first impression and put him as ease.
“Yo, Marshawn, what’s crack-a-lackin?” I quipped. I didn’t exactly plan on saying that, but came out, and that’s a risky opener for a 39-year old somewhat pasty white guy to roll with. After all, Lynch was born the year I graduated from High School, a fact that blows me away, so I risked coming across as lame, aging white guy unsuccessfully trying to be “hood.”
Luckily, the remark was a slam-dunk; Lynch was floored. I didn’t need five minutes for him to warm up to me; I was his boy in five seconds. First impressions really do mean a lot.
With the introductions out of the way, and with a comfort level that could take another reporter months to develop achieved in seconds, my stress evaporated, and I knew it was going to be a great interview, perhaps my best.
And it was both.
Here’s a shot of me and my boy Marshawn.