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: December 15, 2012, 11:55:04 PM

Martin's first step helped lead him to Bucs


By ROY CUMMINGS| The Tampa Tribune
Published: December 15, 2012


 One step.

Every journey begins that way, and for Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie running back Doug Martin, the first step in his improbable journey to the NFL came on a basketball court at St. Mary's High School in Stockton, Ca.

Martin has no recollection of it. To him, it was just one in a thousand, maybe a million he took one day while aimlessly dribbling a basketball during an open-gym session the summer before his freshman year.

St. Mary's football coach Tony Franks will never forget it. On the advice of assistant coaches, he'd dropped by the gym that day specifically to see Martin take this one step. When he saw it, he couldn't believe his eyes.

"He was just horsing around, this skinny kid bouncing a basketball,'' Franks said of Martin. "Then, all of a sudden, he took this step. He planted his right foot and, 'Boom,' off he went in the other direction. When I saw that I thought, 'We've got something special here.' "

Over the next three weeks, Martin could take a step that makes him the Buccaneers' all-time single-season rushing leader he needs 311 yards to break James Wilder's record of 1,544.

Not that anyone in the gym at St. Mary's saw it coming.

Martin was there that day for another reason. He was a basketball player. Always had been. He never really liked soccer and wasn't much good at baseball. Basketball was his game, and if Franks was going to change that he had some work to do.

He started subtly. Give it a try, Franks urged. If it's not for you, we move on. No hard feelings.

A couple of Franks' assistant coaches and many of Martin's friends joined the chorus. Even Martin's mom gave him a nudge.

"I thought it would give him a chance to meet some of the guys and get to know them before school started,'' Leslie Martin said. "I thought it might help him immerse himself in the culture of the school a little bit.''

Martin eventually agreed, deciding not long before freshman tryouts to try to make the team as a running back. Franks, thinking back on that step he saw Martin take in the gym, thought he'd made the right choice.

But wait a minute.

Martin had never even watched much football, let alone played. He really had no idea how to play running back. Oh, he could run, all right, but carrying a ball, catching a ball he didn't have a clue.

What Martin's journey needed was a map. Leslie found it at a Barnes & Noble bookstore one day, a picture-filled biography of Walter Payton called "Pure Payton'' that included a DVD showing Payton running over and around would-be tacklers.

Martin studied it for hours. When he'd absorbed everything the book and the DVD offered, he logged onto to YouTube and studied videos of Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders, thinking he would mimic their styles.

When tryouts started later that summer, Martin again showed off the ability to plant his foot and change direction, "but he didn't always go in the right direction,'' Franks said.

"There was definitely going to be a learning curve for him. But that's why we have three levels of football here. That's why we have the freshman and the sophomore teams here for kids like Doug.''

Baby steps. But what did you expect? Most journeys start off slowly and pick up speed. They have a roadblock or two, as well. Martin's came just a few steps down the road.

Freshman season, first game, first play. Martin fielded the opening kickoff just fine then started running. When he hit the pile something happened. Martin wasn't sure what, but all of a sudden the ball came out fumble.

That wasn't even the worst of it.

"Somebody comes up from the other team, grabs the ball and takes it the other way for a touchdown,'' Franks said. "I couldn't believe it. Strip and score on his first play ever.''

Detour. This is where many coaches would have forced a change of direction, sat Martin down or found him a new position. Not Franks. He was willing to stay the course as long as Martin was.

"It really was an inau**CENSORED**ious beginning for me,'' Martin said. "I was like, 'Did that just happen?' But I loved playing the game, loved playing a position where I was able to put the team on my shoulders and carry it.''

That's all Franks had to hear. As far as he was concerned, Martin was finally off and running. He's been carrying his teams ever since. First it was the St. Mary's Rams, then the Boise State Broncos.

Now it's the Bucs.

Having already set a Tampa Bay franchise record for rushing yards by a rookie with 1,234, Martin needs 311 yards in his final three games to break the team's single-season rushing record of 1,544 by James Wilder in 1984.

"He has made a lot of progress quickly,'' Franks said. "But I'm not really surprised. Parts of this game didn't always come naturally to him, but he's always worked very hard at it.''

Martin never worked as hard as he has this season. Football is no longer just a game to him. It's more like a job now. He seems to love the demands as much as he loves the rewards.

"I've always considered myself a perfectionist, so I like being able to get things exactly right,'' Martin said. "That way, when I get into a game everything is fluid for me. Everything feels comfortable, like it's innate.''

The journey isn't over. It has barely begun, though you wouldn't know it from watching Martin at work. That's what stands out most to Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.

"He carries himself in a manner that doesn't reveal the fact he's a rookie,'' Sullivan said. "The way he prepares, the way he handles some of the successes, the setbacks, it's impressive.''

Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt, who has been in the NFL for 33 years, isn't sure he's seen another quite like Martin.

"He's as fast to the line of scrimmage as anybody I've seen, and he can make you miss because he drops his pads real low and gives you very little surface to tackle on,'' Vitt said. "He can split defenders and when he does he gets back to top speed very, very quickly and then he can hit you, too.

"This kid is dropping linebackers and defensive linemen like they're third-period Latin."

Martin, Vitt said, is special.

Franks isn't surprised

"He's come a long way,'' Franks said. "From a kid bouncing a basketball in a gym one day to where he is now, it's pretty remarkable. But with his athleticism and drive, we knew that at some point it was all going to come together for him.''

Ms Elam


Posts : 512
#1 : December 16, 2012, 12:50:58 AM

He is very quick to the line of scrimmage. That's why this offense needs more misdirection and counter running plays. He hits the whole and in 3 yards before the linebackers can take 2 steps forward, or more importantly before they can be blocked, Doug is right in there lap. If we have some kind of misdirection going on behind the line of scrimmage, then hopefully three linebackers will flow, so when Doug gets to the spot they will be reaching trying to get back instead of sitting there to meet him.
: December 16, 2012, 12:52:53 AM Ms Elam


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Posts : 40294
#2 : December 16, 2012, 01:07:47 AM

Quite the contrast to Blount's 'tap dancing'.


 I thought Lovie said he wanted quickness & speed, even at the QB position?
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