Football was no fantasy to Doug Martin as a rookie last season. But in the statistically driven imaginary game that can turn anyone into an NFL general manager, Martin was the 27th-ranked running back by ESPN heading into 2012.

Of course, there was a make-believe quality about Martin in his first year with the Buccaneers.

"I felt like it clicked for me probably the fourth or fifth game," he said. "Around there. I got a feel for the speed of the game and how quickly the holes close. After that, things started to slow down for me, my vision opened up and I was able to do what I do."

But fantasy football geeks can tell you precisely when Martin went from sleeper to keeper. Through six games, the former Boise State star rushed for 408 yards, a ho-hum 4.1 per carry.

Even coach Greg Schiano, who traded up to select Martin 31st overall and likened the 5-foot-9, 215-pound ball of butcher knives to the Ravens' Ray Rice, whom Schiano coached at Rutgers, expected more.

Then came back-to-back games beginning in Week 8 with a nationally televised upset at Minnesota in which Martin rushed 29 times for 135 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 79 yards, including a 64-yarder for a score.

"That Vikings game, I was like, 'Okay, I think I've got this,' " Martin said.

A week later, Martin tapped a few legends on the shoulder pads. He ran all over the Raiders for 251 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries, including three gallops to the end zone of more than 40 yards, an NFL record. The 486 yards of total offense over two games had only been accomplished four other times.

Talk about fantasy: Only Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson and Walter Payton — who accomplished it twice — had ever known what it felt like to be Martin.

Following the Bucs' practices last week, Martin squinted into the sun and contemplated what he could do this season for an encore.