Joe Mixon (28) ran with brute force Sunday like role model Marshawn Lynch.
Joe Mixon looked up to Le'Veon Bell, but when they meet Monday night (8:25-ESPN, Cincinnati's Channel 5) when Mixon's Bengals meet Bell's Steelers, probably not so much anymore.
If Mixon is looking up to anybody it is Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, his fellow Bay-area product who has been checking up on him since he was in middle school.
And boyhood hero Michael Vick.
Mixon and Lynch met at some of the many community events Lynch has been making it a point to attend since he played at California and Lynch was one of the two current NFL running backs to reach out to Mixon after his first career 100-yard game last Sunday against the Browns.
The other is Denver's C.J. Anderson, another Bay guy who played at Cal.
"They said they were happy for me and to keep on going," Mixon said before Wednesday's practice. "(Mixon and Lynch have) had a relationship ever since when he was at Cal and then when he came out and things like that. He just always looked out for me."
Now Mixon is the guy out in the community and he's receiving raves for going out on the town the day after he went to town on the Browns. On Monday night he was a big hit at the radio show "Bengals Line," at The Banks' Holy Grail when he stayed after his appearance to sign a raft of autographs. Before he went to the show he helped a group of kids do their Christmas shopping for the Marvin Lewis Community Fund.
And he had Lynch in mind.
"He's a community guy. He likes getting out and helping. I'm sure he got it from his mom ... Delisa, I've known her for years, her and my mom are real good friends," Mixon said. "For the most part, I always admired how he helped out and I just wanted to be like that … he's always in the community and he helps out when he doesn't have to, and that's just him. People like me in the community that's young and always looked up to him, hopefully one day I'll be in that situation and be able to help."
So if there's anybody he's trying to imitate, it's Lynch.
Bell took issue with Mixon's comments after the game earlier this season, when a frustrated Mixon had just seven carries and none in the last 37 or so minutes of Pittsburgh's 29-14 win and thought he "could do way more than," Bell did. Mixon said he didn't mean anything by the remark but via Twitter Bell get on how Mixon mimicked his first down signal and Mixon has since stopped.
"I looked up to him," Mixon said. "I wasn't tripping. Hey, if he doesn't want me to do it, I'm not going to do it. I'm not worried about it.
"I'm going out there to win a football game. I'm not going out there trying to figure out what another man is thinking."
Here's another thing Mixon has in common with Lynch. Both like to run with a jolt and Mixon put that on display in the last drive last Sunday.
Joe Mixon dished out some hits Sunday, then gave back some love Monday.
"I've been putting emphasis on it for myself, been trying to go ahead and finish runs violently," Mixon said. "I feel I've got to put that on tape. I didn't show that a lot recent games and my Madden rating, I wasn't feeling that."
He was definitely feeling it on first-and-10 from the Browns 25 with 3:57 left, the Bengals up seven and one snap after safety Jabrill Peppers got a penalty for hitting Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone in the head while he was trying to run down a go ball.
On the next play, at the end of a 14-yard run, Mixon got lower than Peppers, drilled him before he went down, and Peppers' helmet came flying off. So did Peppers' mouth as he kept up running chatter.
"He was just saying he liked that stuff and I was just telling them "I love it." He hit my teammate the play before," Mixon said. "I like Peppers. (He's) impressive. I didn't really know him too much, but we had a couple of talks before.
"He just hit me up on Twitter to say keep balling. I was just saying the same thing when we were in college. We had a couple of conversations, but for the most part, I think he's a good guy. He hit my teammate the play before and knocked him out and we wasn't feeling that, so, it was just an unfortunate feeling. I caught him in the middle of the field and was like 'Hey, I'm going to punish you' That's what happened."
But Mixon wants to make sure he does a little bit of both. Profootballfocus.com says 70 percent of his 484 yards have come after contact. But the site has his elusive runs ranked 95th in the league. So that will be a focus down the stretch.
"There are certain situations, depending on what kind of game it is, how the defender is coming at you," Mixon said. "It depends how I'm feeling. In some games, I want to make you miss and some games I'm going to make you pay when you try to tackle me."
And, yes, Mixon keeps an eye on that Madden rating. After all, here's a guy who says he was two or three years old when he was pushing the 'B,' button. He had no idea what was going on, but he liked the spin move the button always produced.
"It was a blessing seeing myself on Madden. I always dreamed of it, and as soon as the game came out I was one of the first persons to get it early," Mixon said. "I probably say for the most part I play with the Bengals, secondary team would probably be Atlanta or something."
That's probably because of Vick, the former Falcons quarterback that Mixon emulated as a kid. Bell may have gotten mad about him stealing his first-down sign. Bell even said something about mismatched gloves. But when it came to Vick, Mixon took everything. He even wanted to throw like the left-handed Vick. So even though he's right-handed, he can still throw lefty.
"I looked up to Michael Vick a lot. He was a left-handed guy. When I first started playing football, I used to always want to be just like him, running the ball, throwing it left-handed," Mixon said. "I'm a right-hand guy, but I would throw it left-handed because I used to try to be just like him. For the most part, Vick was definitely an influence on mine when I first started playing football.
"I used to scramble out and run for like 70 yards on somebody," said Mixon of his Vick/Madden persona. "Or throw a quick screen pass to Warrick Dunn or something like that."
After Sunday's few shots he dished out instead of took, he hopes the game people are watching.
"For me, I feel in Madden (I'm) probably at least an 87 or something," Mixon said, down on his current 70. "Hopefully the Madden people seen that and they're going to readjust a couple things in there."