Doug Martin isn’t a Pro Bowler…yet.
There’s a good chance the Buccaneers rookie will be officially an all-star before he even starts his second NFL season. While Martin was not one of the three running backs named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad on Wednesday, he was identified as the first alternate behind a trio of established veterans – Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore. Should any one of those three (or more than one) be unavailable on pro Bowl weekend, either due to health concerns or their teams still being alive in the playoffs, Martin would be the first back to get the call to Hawaii.
On Thursday, Martin called that alternate selection “a great honor,” and he’s right. It’s relatively rare for a rookie to make enough of an impact to vault him ahead of the many veterans with more established Pro Bowl pedigrees. There are only two rookies on this year’s Pro Bowl teams so far, in fact: Washington QB Robert Griffin III and Minnesota K Blair Walsh, both of the NFC.
And while the Pro Bowl has been drawing an increasing amount of heat for the quality of the actual game (such as in this article by Albert Breer on the NFL’s own web site), it’s still has a certain appeal for the players. At least it does for the young players, if Martin is any indication. He said he would be thrilled to actually play in the Pro Bowl.
“Definitely,” he said. “Who doesn’t want to go to the Pro Bowl? I mean, besides people going to the Super Bowl. But it would definitely be a great experience.”
The Buccaneers have only had two other rookies ever make it into the Pro Bowl, and coincidentally, both of them were running backs. One of those two was Clifton Smith in 2008, and while he was nominally a running back he actually made it for his kick return exploits. The other was Warrick Dunn in 1997, in a situation much more analogous to Martin’s debut season.
If Martin makes it to this year’s Pro Bowl, and not at the expense of Peterson, he would be teammates with another back who made the all-star game as a rookie. Peterson ran for 1,341 yards, had 1,609 yards from scrimmage and scored 13 total touchdowns in 1997, his first NFL season; Martin currently has 1,312, 1,776 and 10, respectively, with one game to go. As similar as those numbers are, Martin can only hope his trips to Honolulu become as regular as Peterson’s. The Minnesota back has now made it to the Pro Bowl in five of his six NFL seasons, save only last year when he sustained a knee injury.
This year Peterson has made a stunning comeback from that late-season injury and is threatening the NFL’s single-season rushing record. His selection to the Pro Bowl was virtually guaranteed.
“I’ve been watching [Peterson]…he’s a great, great, great running back,” said Martin. “He’s inspiring and hopefully one day I’ll be able to do that, too.”