Thomas Rawls is still just a kid from Flint, Michigan, he says.
Even after breaking the Seattle Seahawks’ single-game postseason rushing record, rushing 27 times for 161 yards and a touchdown on Saturday in the 26-6 win over the Detroit Lions.
“Feeling every bit of those carries right now,” Rawls said afterward.
That record was previously held by Marshawn Lynch, the man Rawls took over for in the Seahawks’ backfield. Lynch ran for 157 yards in the 2015 NFC title win over the Green Bay Packers.
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“I still look up to him,” Rawls said of Lynch. “Still do. Still communicating with him.
“I remember back when I was younger watching him. I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to be part of this organization. I’m nothing special, man. I’m just a kid from Flint with a lot of heart and toughness and I want to go as far as I can.”
Rawls said he last spoke to Lynch about preparing himself mentally for the playoffs.
Coach Pete Carroll sees in Rawls some of the toughness that the Seahawks had in Lynch.
“I fell in love with Thomas Rawls because he is so tough,” Carroll said. “(That was) a long time ago when I first saw him in college.
“That’s the guy we saw tonight that we fell in love with immediately. We loved his style so much and his aggressiveness. And his attitude about running the football is exactly what we wanted to stand for.”
Rawls had romped for 107 yards by halftime.
But it wasn’t all Rawls.
The offensive line might have put together its most complete game of the season, especially run blocking. When Rawls scored on a 4-yard run with 8:49 remaining in the game, center Justin Britt and right guard Germain Ifedi opened a gaping hole for Rawls to cruise through.
Rawls reached the end zone, then hopped twice in the air in excitement, as if he still had lots of energy left, as the Seahawks took a 19-6 lead.
“When I get excited, I jump around a lot, as you can see,” Rawls laughed. “I know my offensive linemen love it. They love when I jump and give them a head butt. I’m grateful to even touch the ball, and even more grateful to get into the end zone.”
Rawls said his performance was that much more special considering it came against his hometown team.
He didn’t grow up rooting for the Lions, but he said he has many friends and family members who did. Rawls graduated high school from Flint Northern and accepted a scholarship from the University of Michigan. His favorite player was former Michigan running back Mike Hart.
Then Rawls transferred to Central Michigan for his senior year.
“This was kind of sweet,” Rawls said. “It did feel kind of special because I know there were a lot of people watching back home, and I can put a smile on their faces.”
Ifedi said he noticed all week how Rawls was looking to have this kind of performance. That was probably because Rawls missed the Seahawks’ playoff run last year with a broken ankle, confined to watch from his couch.
So the line paved the way.
“He was itching to break out,” Ifedi said. “We had to get him a little room, and we did that tonight.”
Rawls said he last spoke to Lynch about preparing himself for the playoffs.
Coach Pete Carroll approached Rawls in the locker room afterward and gave Rawls a hug.
“He was so excited to see me happy and to see us win,” Rawls said. “And the way we did it — on the ground. The identity that we always try to maintain is we want to run the ball, and that’s exactly what we did.”
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