The Father Missing From Marshawn Lynch’s Life and How It Fueled him to Succeed On the Field

Marshawn Lynch, bottom, with his father, Maurice Sapp, in an undated photo. (Photo: Sapp family photo)

Marshawn Lynch, bottom, with his father, Maurice Sapp, in an undated photo.
(Photo: Sapp family photo)

Marshawn Lynch is playing himself in a movie about his life, titled “Family First: the Marshawn Lynch Story,” and a list of roles to be featured in the film has a noticeable omission.

There is no father.

Lynch’s dad, Maurice Sapp, is serving a 24-year sentence for burglary and been convicted six times, twice on felonies — grand theft and burglary — according to records reviewed by USA TODAY Sports. He is absent from the movie that’s in post production, just as he was absent from much of Lynch’s life.

But Sapp’s sisters suggested the only way to understand Lynch, the Seattle Seahawks star running back whose refusal to speak with the news media persists as Super Bowl XLIX approaches, is to know about his relationship with Lynch’s father, their brother.

“When I see Marshawn, I see my brother,” Bernice Feaster told USA TODAY Sports. “My brother’s been in and out of jail, but he’s not a bad person. And he loves his kids.”

She said Lynch and Sapp last spoke by phone a few months ago. This week Sapp called USA TODAY Sports from Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, Miss., used by California because of its overcrowded prisons. He declined to comment and referred questions to Feaster, who said she speaks frequently to her 53-year-old brother.

“He wants a better relationship with Marshawn, but he doesn’t want Marshawn to think he’s reaching out to him just because he’s a famous football player,” Feaster said. “That’s a sticky situation.”

The situation, according to another of Lynch’s aunts, Sarah Bridges, has been strained since the separation of Sapp and Lynch’s mother, Delisa Lynch, in the early 1990s. They said their brother had begun to steal from Lynch’s mother to support his drug habit that led to criminal behavior.

Delisa Lynch declined to comment.

Over the years, he was arrested on the charges including unlawful transportation, distribution, and importation of marijuana; possession of narcotic paraphernalia; grand theft and burglary.

Feaster said although her brother was well liked and talented, he was notoriously unreliable — especially when he’d made plans with Lynch. She said she thinks that contributed to Lynch’s distrust of people.

“I think that does have a part in it because Marshawn would be sitting there and he’d be anxious waiting on his dad,” Feaster said. “Sometimes his daddy would show up, and sometimes he wouldn’t.

“I think it affected him. Kids playing football, their daddy’s there watching them, coaching them, talking to them after the game, telling them what they could’ve done better or what they did well. And Marshawn didn’t have that. He had his Papa (Lynch’s grandfather), but it’s different.”

When he was out of prison, Sapp watched some of Lynch’s high school football games from outside the fence at Oakland Technical High School stadium, according to the sisters, who said Sapp wanted to avoid conflict with Lynch’s mother. The tension between them interfered with Sapp’s attempts to reconnect with Lynch and his younger siblings, according to Sapp’s sisters.

Delton Edwards, Lynch’s coach in high school, said Lynch grew so angry about the situation with his father that he eventually dropped Sapp from Marshawn Sapp-Lynch. Edwards said Lynch tapped into that emotion when he was on the field, developing a running style that led to the catchphrase “Beast Mode.”

“You could see it, the frustration,” Edwards said.

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Josh Peter

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