IRVING, Texas – One media session with Zack Martin perfectly encapsulates how young and how old the rookie guard can seem at once.
Martin spoke to reporters at his locker Tuesday afternoon after he spent the bye weekend in South Bend, Ind., watching Notre Dame – a team he was playing for less than a year ago. The line of questioning quickly turned to Sunday's game against New York, which raised a stark contrast.
In his first season in the NFL, Martin is helping to pave the way for the league's best rushing attack. He's also about to play just his third division game, and his first NFC East road game.
"Obviously, this is my first year, so I'm kind of just learning on the fly about how everything works in the division," Martin said. "I know we're excited for every game, and like I said, the most important game is the next one, and that happens to be a divisional game."
Sunday's kickoff against the Giants will be just the 11th of Martin's pro career. On the other hand, his sterling rookie season is not going unnoticed. On Monday, NFL.com released its list of leading vote-getters for the Pro Bowl at each position. Martin is the current leader in the clubhouse among NFL guards for the honor – joining Tyron Smith, the No. 1 tackle, and Travis Frederick, the No. 1 center.
Befitting his surprising level of maturity, Martin responded with impressive acumen when asked if he had a reaction to that statistic.
"Not really. Like I've said, we're focusing on New York," he said. "If it doesn't have anything to do with that, then we're not worried about it."
New York will be one of just a few places where Martin and the Dallas offensive line will have an opportunity to showcase the ground game that has helped them to a 7-3 record. The Cowboys play two home games in the next six weeks, but their four road games all look likely to be played in wintery conditions.
Martin, who played plenty of his college career in similar conditions, said the cold shouldn't affect what the Cowboys are able to do on offense – nor is it something they can concern themselves with.
"Playing in the cold is fun, and doing what we do is great in the cold weather. But along with the schedule, that's not something we're worrying about," he said. "It doesn't matter what the weather is like, we're going to come out there and try to play our best football."
That seamless transition, from inexperienced rookie to savvy-sounding veteran, seems to happen often with Martin – as it did with Frederick in 2013. Martin has never been part of a playoff push. In fact, his longest college season, 14 games in 2012, was two fewer contests than an NFL regular season.
"I learn something new every day. I've said this all along, but I'm lucky to be with the group that we have and it's definitely easier learning with them," he said.
For all the recognition, though, Martin was quick to shoot down the idea that the transition has been easy. The Cowboys inserted him into the starting lineup immediately after drafting him 16th overall, but he said the acclimation is still something he's dealing with.
"It's been extremely tough, getting ready each week for a very good opponent and very good individual matchups," Martin said. "The best advice I got before I came into the NFL was you've got to have a short memory and you can get down if something goes wrong, because you're going against great guys and it's going to happen."
That said, to channel Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, none of this seems too big for the soon-to-be 24-year-old. The Cowboys will need that to continue to prove true in the coming month – and the rookie seems quite aware of that himself.
"We're getting geared up to go up to New York and to play a tough game up there, and we know the season really starts now," Martin said. "We've put ourselves in position to do something, but it's what we do from here that counts."