Doug Martin might have one of the worst nicknames in sports, and he knows it.
The Tampa Bay running back has been dubbed the “Muscle Hamster,” and he hears it everywhere he goes.
“I’m over it,” he said. “I’m so over it. I just don’t like that name.”
While he doesn’t wear the moniker proudly, he does boast the fourth-highest rushing total in the league nine games into his rookie season. Martin has 862 rushing yards for an average of 5 yards per carry and seven rushing touchdowns.
Tampa Bay also uses him in the passing game with 23 catches for 296 receiving yards so far this season. So far, the No. 31 overall draft pick out of Boise State has been the centerpiece to Tampa Bay’s offense.
“We had strong feelings for Doug and he was an excellent football player and our kind of person. Can you ever predict that he was going to have this kind of production after nine games? Probably not,” Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano said. “He really is a guy who exemplifies what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to build here. That is a really good football player who loves the game but is really a good person too. A guy who is going to be good to our community, and he’s done all that. He’s a very special guy.”
Against the Panthers in Week 1, Martin rushed 24 times for 95 yards and had four catches for 23 yards.
He had been relatively quiet on the national scene until Week 9 against the Raiders, when he rushed for 251 yards and four second-half touchdowns.
That’s when the legend of the Muscle Hamster grew.
The nickname’s origins go back to Martin’s days at Boise State, when a teammate called his then-girlfriend, a gymnast, a muscle hamster. Martin stuck up for his girlfriend, so the teammate applied the name to Martin as well.
Panthers fullback Richie Brockel knew Martin before he picked up the nickname. The two overlapped at Boise State, and Martin’s instant success in the NFL hasn’t surprised Brockel, who remembers one practice in particular.
“He was doing one-on-one tackling drills with the linebackers,” Brockel said. “One play he ran a linebacker over. The next one he shook the guy, and the last one he jumped over the guy. That’s the kind of runner he is. He’s powerful, he’s quick and he’s explosive.”
The Buccaneers have leaned heavily on Martin this season. His 173 carries this season are 30 more than what DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have combined.
“I think he’s the player a lot of people envisioned him to be,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “He is a dynamic football player that fits exactly what they’re looking for.”