Mike Tolbert is 5-foot-9 and 245 pounds. He has become the Carolina Panthers’ primary short-yardage back. He is so low to the ground and so powerful that he is often likened to a human bowling ball.
In his six-year NFL career, Tolbert has scored 36 touchdowns – including three this season for the Panthers. But for the first 35 of them, he never put his unofficial nickname into one of his touchdown celebrations.
On No. 36, however, he did. After his second touchdown in Carolina’s 35-10 whipping of Minnesota a week ago, Tolbert pantomimed a bowling routine in the end zone – pretending to roll a ball and then clenching his fist as all those invisible pins went down.
“My friends call me the human bowling ball sometimes,” Tolbert said. “So I did it for them.”
Was that a strike you rolled, I asked?
“Nothing but strikes, man,” Tolbert said. “I’m going for a 300 game.”
If Tolbert scores against St. Louis in Charlotte Sunday, will he do that again? “I don’t know,” Tolbert said. “I don’t plan those celebrations out.”
I hope he does do it. That celebration fits him like a pair of multi-colored bowling shoes, since it turns out Tolbert knows what he’s doing in an alley. Tolbert said he bowls twice a week in the offseason in San Diego. He said he averages 160 and has a high game of 217.
“I’ve even got my own ball,” Tolbert said, “drilled just for me. I don’t use my thumb at all, so it’s a two-hole ball.”
I like that the Panthers’ human bowling ball is a good bowler. It makes me feel like life has a certain synchronicity, in the same way that the fastest man in the world has the last name of “Bolt” and that one of the most famous crossword puzzle editors ever had the last name of Akenhead. Seriously.
• OK, on to the game. The way the Panthers can beat the Rams is to run the ball. St. Louis is 30th in the NFL in rush defense. DeAngelo Williams, Tolbert and the offensive line all need to have good games Sunday.
• Weird stat: Of the 32 current NFL head coaches, eight played in the league. Of those eight, four played with the Chicago Bears, including both of Sunday’s coaches. Ron Rivera said he and Jeff Fisher did like each other but Rivera is not as close to Fisher as he is to another former Bears teammate who turned into an NFL coach – Leslie Frazier.
• Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has been very good the past two weeks. Carolina must rattle him, because when Bradford gets hot he is extremely accurate. But he’s a pocket passer for the most part, which should allow for more pressure.
• I’ve picked the Panthers’ outcome correctly the past three weeks in a row. To make it four straight, I’m going with this: Carolina 23, St. Louis 16.
Fowler: email@example.com; Twitter: @scott_fowler