Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin (Boise State) is headed to his second Pro Bowl, while Arizona guard Mike Iupati (Idaho) was selected to his fourth straight all-star game.
Martin ranks second in the NFL with 1,305 rushing yards while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Iupati is the first Cardinals lineman to make the Pro Bowl since 1996.
Martin’s performance is reminiscent of his rookie year, when the first-round draft pick from Boise State earned his first appearance in the Pro Bowl as he rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 49 passes for 472 yards and a touchdown.
But in 2013, Martin’s work was cut short when he suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder against the Falcons in Week 6. At the time of his injury, Martin’s 456 rushing yards were fourth in the league.
Martin never regained that form last season. He appeared in only 11 games due to knee and hamstring injuries, and rushed for 494 yards on 135 carries to go along with 13 receptions for 64 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s been a rough two years,” Martin said. “I tore my labrum, and I had multiple nagging injuries and couldn’t be myself. Everybody is saying, ‘Where’s the Doug Martin of 2012?’ ’’
Martin credits his close relationship with his offensive line for his success. He bought each member a hoverboard after his 235-yard rushing performance in a win Nov. 22 at Philadelphia. The linemen can expect more gifts if Martin is able to become the first player in Bucs history to win the league rushing title.
“I appreciate them very much,” Martin said of his offensive line. “I thank them from the bottom of my heart. It’s the best offensive line that has helped blossom me. I say that because of the relationship I have with them and their fight, their willingness to sacrifice their bodies to get a few yards. I hope I can get (the rushing title) for them. It would be a great accomplishment.”
Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin will serve as alumni team captains for their Pro Bowl teams. The draft will be on Jan. 27.
The Pro Bowl will be held on Jan. 31 in Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.