Friend who stuck Doug Martin with 'Muscle Hamster' label: Too late to change

TAMPA, Fla. -- The man who gave Doug Martin the "Muscle Hamster" nickname has heard his friend complain about the moniker for years.

Now that Martin wants to be known as "Dougernaut," Jarrell Root has a message for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back: tough luck.

"I don't think it's ever going to leave him," said Root, a former defensive end who played with Martin at Boise State from 2008 to 2011.

"I don't think you can ever take back something like that," Root said. "Imagine if 'The Fridge' didn't like being called 'The Fridge.' It doesn't matter. He's still going to be called 'The Fridge,' because no matter how you try to do it, if you have an interesting, interesting name, it's too rare. The damage is already done."

Martin has made his frustration with the "Muscle Hamster" label known many times since entering the NFL as a first-round pick in 2012. His campaign against it took a twist on Oct. 21, when he publicly endorsed "Dougernaut" as his nickname. When asked Wednesday about the new moniker, Martin replied, "Better than the other one."

Turns out Martin despised "Muscle Hamster" from the start. As Root tells the story, he referred to Martin's college girlfriend -- a diminutive but powerful gymnast -- as a "muscle hamster." Martin, who is 5-foot-9 and 223 pounds, defended his significant other, and Root replied, "Two little muscle hamsters just running around."

"We ended up just calling them both muscle hamsters," Root said.

"He hated it. He was like, 'OK, man, why can't I be like a pit bull or anything cool like that?' And I'm like, 'Dude, you're short. Hamsters are cool. There's nothing wrong with hamsters. Why do you hate hamsters?' You don't choose a nickname. If your buddies give you a nickname and it sucks and you don't like it, it just sticks with you. He really disliked it. But we just kept it rolling. We didn't understand how big it was until there was a giant hamster wearing a [No.] 22 [jersey] at our games. No joke."

In time, the nickname spread beyond Boise, Idaho. One of Martin's roommates, offensive tackle Matt Slater, told the Idaho Statesman in an article published on Sept. 16, 2010, "I've been really excited for that little muscle hamster to get loose." It's the first known published account of the nickname.

Little did Martin know that a five-year fight had begun.

"We'd tease him a little, but you'd see how pissed off he would get," Root said. "And we'd just be like, 'OK, come on. Maybe you should just chill out, man. You're good. You're fine.' [Martin would say,] 'Don't call me that. Don't call me that.' And I'm like, 'Dude, it's too late. Dude, it's too late. You can't stop it.' And I've been telling him for years, 'Come on, man. Just embrace it.'"

So what does Root think about Martin trying to adopt "Dougernaut" as a new nickname?

"If he wants to do it, fantastic," Root said. "He's going to be my boy no matter what. I love to see him do well.

"If it's going to change, I hope it does for him so he can be happy, and I can start taking 'Muscle Hamster' shots at him again."

For Martin, the "Muscle Hamster" nickname might prove to be one opponent too tough to shake.