Doug Martin sat on a couch outside the Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku, Hawaii, his feet up on a table, looking a bit worn down. A two-hour shuttle-bus ride through dense one-lane traffic will do that to you. Still, Martin was lounging in paradise, so things could be a lot worse.
Plus, that long ride was a fitting parallel for his NFL journey so far. Before the trip, he was at the 2016 Pro Bowl Draft at the Wheeler Army Airfield, sitting among 70 or so of the best players in the NFL and waiting to see if he would end up on Team Rice or Team Irvin. Upon arrival back at the resort, as he rested for a few minutes on that couch, he was once again surrounded by the league's elite.
In 2012, Martin took the NFL by storm. Then a rookie taken with the second-to-last pick of the first round, he racked up 1,926 yards from scrimmage, third-best in the league and second among running backs to established all-star Adrian Peterson. He was selected to play in the Pro Bowl at the end of that campaign, a rare honor for a rookie.
Unfortunately, two injury-plagued seasons followed and he wouldn't even hit 1,200 yards from scrimmage over the next two years combined. Obviously, there were no trips to Hawaii at the end of those campaigns. If he was trapped in a rush-hour shuttle drive in 2013-14, well, Martin broke out again in 2015, producing one of the best seasons ever by a Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back. Martin ran for 1,402 yards, averaged a robust 4.9 yards per carry and added 33 catches for 271 yards. He led the NFL with 13 runs of 20 or more yards and had the best per-tote average of any player with at least 150 carries.
The traffic can catch you by surprise in the unrelenting beauty that is Hawaii. Maybe the adversity not uncommon to the NFL caught Martin by surprise after his confidence-inspiring rookie season. Either way, the journey has been worth it.
"It's easy to slip into that feeling: First year, make the Pro Bowl as a rookie, you think everything will come easy to you," said Martin. "Then I battled with injuries for a few years and I couldn't take it for granted. But I was healthy throughout the whole season this last year and I was able to do the things that I did in 2012, and I'm right back here."
Photos of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders' 2015-16 Pro Bowl representative, Cori.
Martin got here, the Pro Bowl, on a steady, unbroken climb. He hit the 2015 offseason program on the run, a bit slimmed down, stronger and in fantastic shape. Confident, with fresh legs, he built a buzz early and it never subsided. He was outstanding in training camp, he quickly caught the favor of then-Offensive Coordinator (and now Head Coach) Dirk Koetter and he was right at the center of the Bucs' offense when the season began.
This time, Martin plans to keep the momentum going from a great season into the next one.
"I knew what I had to do, and I did it and it worked out great," he said. "So this offseason I'm going to work out like I did last year and do the same thing."
That means so more hard (if satisfying) work in the months ahead. For now though, surrounded by the best players in the NFL just as he was three years ago, Martin is allowed to enjoy the moment.
"It's definitely satisfying," he said. "I can look back and see that my back was against the wall. I went through a lot of adversity, people saying this and that, and I fought through it. I played through it and now I'm here. I can look back at that time now and smile about it."
What I would say to Jameis is, 'Yeah, you got here, but you want to be here every year. You want to be chosen first-ballot. You want to be the first guy chosen. He definitely needs to keep working hard…but he is going to keep working hard, no doubt about that. Jameis is a winner and he loves the game. Failing isn't in his vocabulary. He's going to keep on working.