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Martin Fennelly Columns

'Hamster' just might be next big thing

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 04:35 AM
TAMPA -

He says a friend, a Boise State offensive lineman, who saw the small, muscle-bound dynamo and crowned him with a nickname that even he can't run away from, one that might soon be the rage in Tampa Bay.

Bucs, meet your new all-purpose, three-down, turbo-charged running back.

The Muscle Hamster .

Stop right there.

"It took off a little bit," Doug Martin said, somewhat resigned. "And … it … hasn't … ended yet."

Ended? If the Bucs' second first-round draft pick can get used to not playing on a blue field and hit it big, fans will be throwing rubber hamsters on the turf at Raymond James Stadium for years.

Yes, if Doug Martin, 5-foot-9, 219 pounds, does all the things LeGarrette Blount can't, you can just picture the scene at any number of pet shops in Tampa Bay.

"Lady, we're back-ordered six months on hamsters. You think yours is the only kid who wants one? Look, one-time special, half price: You wanna see something in a gerbil?"

The Bucs might have made a killing by grabbing Martin late in the first round. They didn't sell the farm for Trent Richardson. They took Richardson's teammate, Alabama safety Mark Barron, then jumped up and out of the second round and took Martin. It might have made their draft.

Martin apparently can run by or over people. He can catch. He can block. Goodness, we passed Blount about two sentences ago. Martin was a team captain in college, just like Barron. Like Barron, Martin maxes out on character.

"I just love this kid," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said.

Maybe Schiano has his Ray Rice.

"If you talk to scouts around the National Football League, if you talk to the coaches at Boise State and you talk to his teammates, you'll understand why no one is really surprised that he's a first round running back in the National Football League," Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said.

I talked to a teammate.

Antwan Murray played with Doug Martin at Boise State. Murray, who grew up in Lakeland and majored in communications at Boise State, was driving back to Lakeland after watching the draft at Bucs headquarters. He left too early. His favorite pro football team picked his friend. Murray got the news in his car.

"I got as excited as I could without wrecking," he said.

Everybody hamster up.

"The Bucs are getting a guy who can do anything and will do anything you ask," Murray said. "He's a tremendous person, a humble young man.

"Pound for pound, Doug was probably the strongest guy on the team. He just outworked everybody. Doug was a leader. He'd always help the young guys in workouts, c'mon, keep going, you can do it."

Martin, who grew up in Stockton, Calif., didn't play football until high school, his mom's orders.

"She was afraid I'd get hurt," Martin said.

He briefly switched to defense and nickel back his sophomore season. He did it all. He rushed for more than 1,250 yards in his junior and senior seasons, but still played special teams with Murray and the other Broncos. He has a gunner's mentality.

"That's the kind of guy he is," Schiano said.

And there's this:

"He'll always be upbeat and vibrant," Murray said. "I've never seen Doug when he didn't have a smile on his face."

"That's just who I am," Martin said.

"Doug will definitely be a household name," Murray said. "He's going to be a great face for the community."

He laughed.

"But I'll let Doug tell you about his nickname. I'm not going to burn him."

Burn him?

If this kid takes off, really takes off, the hamster market will go through the roof, or at least chew through the electrical wiring.

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