The past eight months couldnt have gone any better for former Boise State tailback Doug Martin.
Senior Bowl standout. First-round NFL Draft pick. Beat out former 1,000-yard rusher LeGarrette Blount as the starting tailback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Now its time to play.
Im really, really excited, Martin said Friday. It was always a dream for me to play in an NFL game. The atmosphere is going to be very energetic. I cant wait for it to start.
Martin and the Buccaneers play host to the Carolina Panthers at 2:25 p.m. Sunday.
Martin is among 17 former Broncos who are listed on opening-day NFL rosters, most of whom are expected to play in Week 1.
He rushed for 1,260 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Broncos in 2010 and 1,299 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011.
He expects to bring that same unique, aggressive running style to the NFL.
I have a lot of high expectations for myself, he said. Whatever this team needs, I want to be there for.
He says the NFL talent is better and the game is faster, but by studying his playbook he has been able to match that speed. Position coach Earnest Byner, a former NFL running back, has improved his game, too.
Hes taught me a lot over here, Martin said. Ive got a couple more moves. He keeps pushing me to become a better running back.
Martin rushed 27 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason. That was enough to get the nod over Blount, who still is expected to have a role in the backfield.
I think when you watch the tape, and LeGarrettes a smart guy when he watches the tape, he sees that he got outperformed, Bucs coach Greg Schiano said last month, according to the Tampa Bay Times. It doesnt mean that thats it. We dont hand out jobs and sign them over. Its always competition around here, continually. I think Dougs done a great job and thats why hes got the No. 1 seat. But hes got to work to keep it.
Martin said hes unsure how the roles will shake out. Hes just happy the season is finally here.
Its everything that Ive wanted and worked hard for, ever since I was at Boise State, he said. Ive been working to get to this point. Ive put my heart and soul into this and Im right where I want to be.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat