Ask someone who knows Mike Tolbert what he’s like, and the response always is the same.

Tolbert, whose Panthers will host New England Monday night in the team’s most significant home game since the 2008 season, leads Carolina in touchdowns and nicknames. He also leads them in the category of “Guy Most Likely To Make Another Panther Smile.” Every time you ask someone about Tolbert, that person starts to grin before he says anything.

The Panthers running back is a blocky 5-foot-9 and 250 pounds. His shoulders, waist and thighs all seem to be the same thickness. He weighed 120 pounds as a 7-year-old growing up in Georgia, when because of his weight he said he had to play in a Pop Warner league with 11- and 12-year-olds. “And I started for that team, too,” Tolbert said.

Having the build of a human bowling ball – another one of his nicknames – coupled with the fact he thoroughly enjoys back-and-forth teasing makes Tolbert the butt of one good-natured joke after another. Of his more than half-a-dozen nicknames (see the chart accompanying this story for a full list), I ask him what he’s called most often in the locker room.

“Fat boy,” Tolbert said, laughing. “Cam Newton calls me ‘Tub of Goo.’ But it’s all in fun. I am a little plump guy. And I can give back the jokes just as fast as they come.”

Make no mistake – this isn’t a case of bullying. This is the way grown men on equal footing like to bust each other’s chops, especially when they are on a team that has won five games in a row and everyone is feeling good. And Tolbert is feeling especially good these days – he has scored a team-high six touchdowns in 2013. Better yet, and he and his wife had their second child, a healthy boy named Major, on Thursday in Charlotte.