Almost 2 years ago a Marshawn Lynch interview and quote — ‘I’m just ‘bout that action, boss’ — inspired San Jose's Jake McCluskey to start running. Now he’s finishing ultra-marathons and has lost 170 pounds.

Share story

In about 1,100 words, Marshawn Lynch will be quoted for the first time all season, but that’s not even close to the best part of this story. Not when Jake McCluskey is involved. Not when a guy who couldn’t run 100 feet is getting set to run 100 miles.

Twenty months ago, you see, McCluskey was a 380-pound sloth. He lived next door to the bottle shop he worked at in San Jose, and spent his free time gulping down beer and snacking on sweets.

For years, friends and family tried to get him to exercise, but he wouldn’t respond. As much as McCluskey wanted to slim down, the task was too overwhelming for him to conjure the motivation.

But on April 12, 2014, Jake came across a video on YouTube that changed his life forever; a clip he found so powerful that he watched it 30 times in a row.

It was an interview that originally took place five days before the Seahawks’ Super Bowl win. An interview between Deion Sanders — and Marshawn Lynch.

“I had been thinking that it had been time to make a change for a while, and after I watched that interview, I immediately went out for my first run,” said McCluskey, 42. “It wasn’t anything I was seeking out, but somehow it came to my attention at a time that I needed it most.”

Lynch, as you know, may be the most reluctant interviewee in professional sports. His back-and-forth with Deion lasted just two minutes, but included a six-word response that would become McCluskey’s mantra.

When Sanders noted how Lynch didn’t like to talk, the running back replied “I’m just ‘bout that action, boss.” And that’s how it began — McCluskey’s transformation from Obese Mode to Beast Mode.

At 3 o’clock that morning, Jake ran about a tenth of a mile, walked another four tenths, and said he felt like he was going to die. The next day, he watched the interview another 30 times and did the same thing.

A couple weeks later, he could jog the full half-mile without stopping. A couple months after that, he completed a five-mile race.

McCluskey didn’t mention his training to friends, because as Lynch told Sanders in that interview, “I ain’t never seen no talkin’ win me nothin’.” But it wasn’t long before most of the neighborhood had taken notice of Jake’s morning jogs.

In early October, McCluskey finished the San Jose Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon in two hours, 47 minutes. His first thought upon crossing the finish line?

“That I wanted to run a full marathon.”

Keep in mind that Jake still watches that interview about 50 times per week. Also keep in mind that this guy is not a quack.

A Massachusetts native with a college degree, McCluskey moved to San Jose at the turn of the century to take a stab at the tech world. He decided he liked the craft beer world a whole lot better.

Now, he is an assistant brewer at Santa Clara Valley Brewing and still drinks beer every day. He said allowing himself a cold one or two keeps his regimen maintainable.

But he also hasn’t missed a day of training since that very first run.

“I can’t,” said McCluskey, who dropped more than 140 pounds in those first 12 months. “Because if I skipped one day, it would be easy for me to skip two.”

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch loosens up on the field before Monday Night Football. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch loosens up on the field before Monday Night Football. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

As a tribute to Lynch and his hometown, McCluskey chose the Oakland Marathon for his first 26.2-mile endeavor. And despite rigorous training for the early-March event, he said he hit the wall at mile 18.

For Jake, the last third of that race was hell. But when he crossed the finish line in 5:19, he immediately set his sights on 50 miles.

If you think McCluskey’s ambition is just plain stupid, he won’t disagree with you. He knows the human body isn’t designed for such punishment, but this undertaking has gotten bigger than just him.

Locals see Jake running and join him like he’s Forrest Gump. Jack Tse, one of McCluskey’s former customers at a bottle shop, directly credits Jake as the reason he lost 20 pounds.

And last June, McCluskey — who grew up without a father — raised over $18,000 for the Silicon Valley Children’s Fund, an organization that helps send children in foster care to college.

How did he do it? By running from San Francisco to San Jose.

This wasn’t a sanctioned event, by the way. This was McCluskey celebrating his 42nd birthday by jogging from one brewery to another one 50 miles away. His training included a 72-hour stretch in which he ran a marathon on three consecutive days.

Might not have been enough, though. McCluskey collapsed at the 48th mile.

Because there was no sodium in his system, Jake’s muscles couldn’t retain any water. Luckily, one of the friends trailing him on a bike recognized the problem and gave him some saltwater to drink.

Still, while that helped, it wasn’t enough to get McCluskey off the ground. Then, another one of Jake’s friends whipped out his phone and played the Lynch interview.

McCluskey sprang to his feet and conquered the last two miles.

“He’s Beast Mode,” said the aforementioned Tse, who said McCluskey has gone from “Big Jake” to “Sexy Jake.” “Any time he walks in the bar, that’s what we call him. He’s amazing.”

Last week, McCluskey announced that he plans to run 100 miles on April 9, 2016 — which is just shy of the two-year anniversary of that initial jog. Down to 205 pounds, he continues to watch the Lynch interview every day, although he says his favorite team is the Oakland Raiders.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Jake has no aspirations of meeting Lynch in person. Doesn’t want an autograph or a picture or anything like that. All he really wants to do is pass on a message.

“Marshawn gets such a bad rap in regards to media relations, but I just want him to know that he saved my life,” said McCluskey, whose racing bib has the words “that action” underneath his number. “It’s important to me that he knows that.”

Well, here goes nothing.

A couple weeks ago, while most of the media was in the auditorium with Earl Thomas, I walked into the Seahawks locker room and spotted Lynch. Aside from asking Valerie Masterani to homecoming, I’ve never been so nervous approaching anyone.

“Marshawn, I want to show you this guy from the Bay Area,” I said, pointing to my phone.

Marshawn gets such a bad rap in regards to media relations, but I just want him to know that he saved my life.” - Jake McCluskey

He looked up and asked why my hand was shaking.

“I don’t know,” I said, reaching into my clever bag of responses. I kept going.

I showed him a picture of McCluskey at 380 pounds and another one of him at 210. I read him the email Jake sent me about how Lynch’s interview with Deion motivated McCluskey to change. I told Lynch how, because of his message, McCluskey had gone from 0.5 miles to 50 miles.

That’s when Lynch, clearly impressed, offered the highest of compliments.

“That’s gangsta,” he said.

“Yeah,” I replied. “What do you think of all that?”

Lynch paused.

“I just told you,” he said. And then he walked away.

Hey, Marshawn Lynch has never been one for talking. But Jake McCluskey will tell you that his words can go a long way.

How long? We’ll see.

Maybe 100 miles.