Martin's breakout game opens plenty of eyes
Here is the latest Tampa-area tracking poll for president: Mitt Romney 48 percent, President Obama 46 percent, Doug Martin 6 percent.

His teammates saw it trending their way the first time Bucs rookies practiced. "We saw it in the spring, when the rookies first got here," Gerald McCoy said. "He made one move and we were like, 'Damn, he might got it.'"

Doug Martin let Football America in on the secret Thursday night in Minneapolis. We went in talking about Adrian Peterson, we left talking about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie running back.

It was a national coming-out party 214 yards from scrimmage, his first 100-yard game as a rusher, a 41-yard burst early, later that Land of Ten Thousands Fakes run with a screen pass and a 64-yard score, even that 1-yard pile driver, all heart, on the score that iced it. He's the talk of our town, a lot of towns, really.

"Teammates have been calling, teammates all the way back to high school," Martin said Friday. "You don't realize that stuff until after the game, when you look at your phone and see all those text messages and tweets and all that stuff."

You couldn't take your eyes off Doug Martin. Some Bucs couldn't, either. "On his touchdown catch, I kind of watched the last 45 yards as he ran toward the end zone," Bucs offensive lineman Carl Nicks said. "That kid's got wheels."

"I was on the other side (of the field)," Bucs receiver Mike Williams. "When he caught the screen, I'm looking. It was like magic happening right in front of my eyes. I was watching the whole time. I got in trouble from Coach (P.J.) Fleck. He told me to stop watching the plays. But I was watching that play."

Then there was what Martin was seeing. "My eyes just widen up," he said. "You just see that open field and that end zone and you just go."

Greg Schiano looked in those eyes a few times Thursday. The 5-foot-9, 215-pound Martin had 32 touches (29 carries, three catches) and the Bucs head coach was searching for any sign of weariness.

"We do keep a close eye on it, because we don't want to find him in the latter part of the game unable to go " Schiano said. "But at the same time, in the same breath, the really special backs that I've been around, they want it, and they get in the groove and they feel it."

Doug Martin is feeling it, more and more, and the Bucs offense is better for it. He had 132 yards from scrimmage two weeks ago against Kansas City and 122 yards against New Orleans, including a darting, dashing 36-yard touchdown run. He now looks precisely like the turbo-charged, tiger-tough three-down back the Bucs saw when they traded up into the first round to draft him.

It was a night for comparisons. The Bucs now have their Darren Sproles, just like New Orleans. Or is Martin another Warrick Dunn? Some are reaching for the sky, toward Barry Sanders, toward Emmitt Smith. That seems a tad insane seven games into Martin's career.

Here's who really pops into Ronde Barber's head when you mention Doug Martin: "He pops into my head, and that's good enough."

Martin, whose smile never vacates his premises, praised his line and fullback Erik Lorig. When asked, he said he spent some of his youth on YouTube, typing in names like Payton, Sanders and Smith. "My favorite is probably between Emmitt and Walter Payton the toughness, the unwillingness to go down."

The rookie closed by asking not quite begging or praying but asking, pretty please, if the writer and TV people could maybe find him a new nickname, not the one he had at Boise State: "The Muscle Hamster." "I don't have a suggestion," Martin said. "I need to come up with one, I need to. No M.H."

What's so wrong with Muscle Hamster? "I guess," Doug Martin said. "But it's not the most beast-iest animal T-Rex, something like that, something bigger, prehistoric or something."

D-Rex it is. Or maybe Pocket Raptor. There could be time for others with this kid he might got it.

About the writer
Martin Fennelly has been The Tampa Tribune's leading sports columnist for many years and is always on hand with a topical and witty opinion on any Florida sporting event. He was named the Bucs UK's Writer of the Year four consecutive years from 2001 to 2004.