Doug Martin has been compared to Emmitt Smith and Ray Rice, has been linked statistically to Walter Payton and Edgerrin James and has now received a resounding endorsement from LaDainian Tomlinson. That’s rare company for any running back, let alone a rookie, and it’s another indication that Martin has a bright future in the the NFL.
Actually, Martin’s present is pretty bright, as he is on pace to become just the third rookie in league history to eclipse 2,000 yards from scrimmage, joining James and Eric Dickerson (there’s another one!). After his sixth straight game with more than 100 yards from scrimmage helped the Bucs complete a comeback win over Carolina on Sunday, Martin got a visit from Tomlinson, now an NFL Network analyst.
Tomlinson interviewed Martin on Tuesday for a piece that will air on the NFL Network this Sunday during the leadup to Tampa Bay’s high-profile game against the Atlanta Falcons. The Hall of Fame-bound running back and the rookie not only sat down for a studio talk but also strolled out onto the Bucs’ practice fields and compared notes. Tomlinson pantomimed a variety of cuts and moves, as did Martin, as the two talked about game situations and their natural reactions. Martin listened intently, but Tomlinson knows such things come naturally to the former Boise State standout.
“I think a lot of being a runner is instinctive,” said Tomlinson, the fifth-leading rusher in NFL history. “Things that he has are just instinctive – you can’t coach it. The stiff-arm he uses, the feel he has for a game, to make a cut at certain times – that can’t be coached. And this young man has it.”
Tomlinson agreed with the Emmitt Smith comparison for Martin but also saw a promising aspect of the rookie’s game that reminded him of his own career, which opened with eight straight 1,000-yard seasons in San Diego.
“I believe that he’s an every-down back, and that’s one thing that I prided myself on, being an every-down back, a guy that could play first and second-down but also be able to stay in on third down and pass block and also catch the ball out of the backfield,” said Tomlinson. “As a young guy, he’s proven that he can be dependable and reliable on third down, blocking and catching the ball out of the backfield.”
Tomlinson, known simply as “LT” to legions of fans both in and out of San Diego, knows that Martin isn’t fond of his Boise State-born nickname, “Muscle Hampster,” and said he prefers the simple “Dougie-Doug.” Whatever nickname ends up sticking for Martin, Tomlinson believes he’s going to be seeing him in action for a long time to come.
“Great young man,” said Tomlinson. “He’s obviously everything that we want in the NFL as a young man, but also as a player. He’s a guy that has come in and worked hard, earned the respect of his teammates, but also now shown the type of ability that he has. I’m sure the Buccaneers are delighted to have him on the team.”