FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Atlanta Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud and Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch go back to Oakland.
Before they were preparing for Sunday’s NFC divisional-round playoff game in the Georgia Dome, DeCoud and Lynch were University of California teammates. Prior to Cal, DeCoud’s high school team, Pinole Valley, faced Lynch’s Oakland Tech Bulldogs in 2002.
“I was a senior when he was a junior at Oakland Tech,” DeCoud said, “and we beat them.”
DeCoud liked the sound of saying that, so he turned toward a TV camera and raised his voice to a mock level.
“That’s right, Marshawn!” DeCoud bellowed. “We beat you!”.
DeCoud figured 2,180 miles to be a safe distance for taunting the ex-teammate who now looms as an opponent. Besides, a little frivolity was in order for a defense that knows what it’s up against.
If Lynch achieves his typical quota of 100-plus rushing yards, it’s likely the Seahawks advance to the NFC championship contest next week. If Lynch is contained, quarterback Russell Wilson will have trouble selling the play-action fake that’s become the ignition key for the Seattle passing game.
Given his potential to make a difference, you would think Lynch’s name would be akin to a curse word in the Atlanta locker room.
But it isn’t. It’s more like a wake-up whistle.
Aside from DeCoud, few Atlanta players know Lynch – heck, Lynch’s own teammates barely know Lynch – but they know how he plays the game, and their praise is as positively resounding as a drum line steeped in precision.
Linebacker Akeem Dent: “He’s got a passion. It’s great to see guys with a passion.”
Linebacker Stephen Nicholas: “I like to play football with football players. Marshawn Lynch is a football player.”
Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon: “He’s tough. He wants to play football. He doesn’t want to go out of bounds. He’s not thinking about that at all.”
Defensive end Kroy Biermann: “He doesn’t shy away from anything. He’s gonna get every yard he can. You can see he likes the game and loves to play it. We’ve got some guys like that on this team – guys who are lucky to be playing a game and feel blessed to be doing something they love doing.”
Falcons running back Michael Turner, who won’t be required to tackle Lynch, takes the admiration to different level.
He’s a fan.
“I got him to sign something for me at the Pro Bowl,” said Turner, whose trip after the 2008 season coincided with Lynch’s invitation to represent the Buffalo Bills. “I love the way he runs, the way he respects the game, the energy he brings to his team.
“I love Marshawn, man.”
Back to DeCoud, the homey whose high school team prevailed, 10 years ago, over Oakland Tech.
“He loves contact. He loves breaking tackles. Marshawn has been the man since he was able to not wear diapers.
“He’s a great, great, great, great football player.”
Four “greats” when one is enough? The Falcons aren’t taking any chances. They’re in a Beast mood.john.mcgrath@ thenewstribune.com