California running back Marshawn Lynch has such a tight relationship with his mother, Delisa, he came up with a special Mother's Day present to express his affections.
Emblazoned across his both of his shoulder blades are the tattooed words, "Mamma's boy."
Some might consider the term an insult, but Lynch considers it a badge of honor because of how hard his mother worked to raise him and his three siblings.
Apparently, Delisa Lynch's work ethic rubbed off. At California, Lynch emerged as one of the best running backs in college football. His talent and potential was too much for the Buffalo Bills to pass up with their first-round draft pick (12th overall).
"For me even to be in the draft is a blessing," Lynch said during a conference call with the Western New York media. "I'm looking forward to moving on and starting my career in Buffalo. It just seems like a perfect fit."
Lynch was rated second only to Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson, according to most draft analysts. While Peterson is considered the better pure runner, Lynch is believed to be more versatile.
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound junior thrived in California's pro-style, two-back offense under head coach Jeff Tedford. Lynch was the Pacific 10 Conference's offensive player of the year in 2006 after rushing for 1,356 yards. He finished his three-year career with 3,230 yards (6.6 per carry) and 29 touchdowns. He also caught 68 passes for 600 yards and six scores.
Lynch is strong enough to run inside, has the speed to bounce outside and the strength and balance to break tackles and gain extra yards after contact.
"Coach Tedford did a wonderful job preparing all the athletes at Cal in running the pro-style offense," Lynch said. "It will be a little tough transition [to the NFL] as far as the play calling, but just the main objective and goal of the offense it will be pretty easy for me to pick up. I've played in it for three years."
Bills coach Dick Jauron said Lynch's experience in a pro-style offense helps, but it wasn't the only reason Lynch was successful at Cal.
"I think his talents would have shown no matter where he played," Jauron said. "The guy is really an effective runner. I think he makes people miss and then on top of that he's got speed enough to go the distance. He's a sub-4.5 40 guy, which is pretty fast. He has some power. He's effective in short-yardage situations. He also can catch the ball and he can block. It helps to see him do all the things that you're going to ask him to do."
Lynch had some concerns about an off-the-field incident affecting his draft stock. At the beginning of the year, a woman claiming to be his ex-girlfriend accused him of domestic and sexual assault. But charges weren't filed because of a lack of evidence and inconsistencies in the accuser's story.
"It was something I had to go through," Lynch said. "I'm glad I went through it. It's done with and it's a learning experience that's going to lead me on the right track when it comes to one of those kind of situations again."
Lynch grew up in the tough inner city of Oakland, and learned first-hand how danger can lurk around any corner.
While waiting to attend his sister and godbrother's high school graduation, a gunman fired five shots at his car, but the bullets missed him. About 20 minutes later, his mother got a phone call from someone who apologized for the shooting and said the bullets weren't meant for her son.
Perhaps the call shows how much respect Lynch has in his hometown, or as he suspects, it shows how much street credibility his mother has.
"She's a beast out there, man," he said, laughing. "Everybody respects my mom. She comes up to the high school and everybody has a nickname for her. It's either auntie Lisa, Momma Lisa, Mamma Delisa. She's real active with the school."
In drafting Lynch, the Bills are getting a package deal because his mother is moving to Buffalo with him.
"She doesn't know too much about Buffalo," he said. "My mom works at the telephone company so I asked [the Bills] if they had a telephone company where she could work and I asked if they've got a Bingo hall down there. They told me they had a Bingo hall and a telephone company down there, so my momma is going to be solid."