LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie Bush and Larry Johnson are all fantastic NFL running backs, but even they don’t hold a candle to Arkansas’ Darren McFadden. At least in one category, that is.
Tomlinson, Bush and Johnson are all former recipients of the Doak Walker Award, which is given yearly to the nation’s top running back. None of them, however, won it as a sophomore.
McFadden did. He became the first ever sophomore to win the dubious award after rushing for a school-record 1,647 yards despite getting off to a slow start due to a toe injury. He also finished with 14 rushing touchdowns and even threw for three scores despite only attempting nine passes.
He was so good his sophomore year that he was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy award. Although he eventually finished second in the Heisman running to Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, plenty of college football fans in Little Rock, Arkansas and throughout the country saw how good he was. He damn near led the Razorbacks to 10 straight wins and the SEC Western Division championship on his own.
While things haven’t gone as well for the Razorbacks in 2007, McFadden has continued to prosper.
In an early November game against SEC rival South Carolina, McFadden rushed for 321 yards on 34 carries and also added two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). His performance tied the SEC single-game rushing record set by Vanderbilt’s Frank Mordica in 1978.
McFadden also rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns three weeks later as Arkansas stunned top ranked LSU 50-48 in triple overtime. He now ranks third all-time in the SEC for career rushing yards with 4,485, sitting behind only Kevin Faulk (4,557) of LSU and Herschel Walker (5,259) of Georgia.
Given one more season, McFadden would likely pass both Faulk and Walker on that list, but before the 2007 season started, he made it clear that he would enter the NFL Draft in 2008. He could still have a change of heart, but given that he’ll likely be a top five pick and stands to make millions of dollars in the NFL, it’s hard to believe he’ll return to Arkansas for his senior season. Another element that could push him towards turning pro is that Arkansas has already announced that Huston Nutt will not return next season as head coach. Nutt recruited McFadden out of high school, so it makes sense that the running back wouldn’t return to an all-new coaching staff next season.
At 6’2”, 215 pounds, McFadden certainly has the size to be an every-down back at the next level. He also has surprising speed and quickness for being so tall, although a lot of scouts are quick to note that his upright running style might lead to injuries. He’s often drawn comparisons to Eric Dickerson and O.J. Simpson.
McFadden was selected by the Oakland Raiders with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
McFadden on the Web
Official Arkansas Player Bio: Darren McFadden
The official website for the Arkansas Razorbacks recaps McFadden’s yearly accomplishments, as well as lists his stats and collegiate achievements.
The Official Website of Darren McFadden
All Darren, all the time – the McFadden’s official website has latest news, stats, photos and much more.
Darren McFadden’s Wikipedia Page
Find an in-depth bio as well as interesting articles about McFadden at his Wikipedia page.
“The Ultimate Weapon”
Check out this highlight video of Darren McFadden from YouTube.com.
McFadden for Heisman
Think Darren McFadden should be 2007’s Heisman Trophy winner? So does McFadden for Heisman.com, a blog website dedicated to the star running back.
Latest on McFadden
Even though they had need at other positions, the Oakland Raiders couldn't pass on the explosive McFadden when they selected the former Arkansas running back fourth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.
News and Commentary
Darren McFadden? Typical Raiders
Discuss the Raiders' selection of Darren McFadden at the Scores Report.
McFadden picked fourth overall by Oakland
The Oakland Raiders selected Darren McFadden with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
McFadden glad draft is over, ready to get on the field
Now that the draft is over, Darren McFadden can now focus on what he does best: play football.
Darren McFadden wins Doak Walker Award
McFadden became the first sophomore to ever win college football’s Doak Walker Award.
McFadden is the nation’s best player
There’s no doubt who Gabriel D. Brooks of the News Journal.com thinks is the best player in college football: Darren McFadden.
Mother: Hogs’ McFadden to turn pro after season
News straight from mom’s mouth: Darren McFadden will enter the NFL following the 2007 season.
Forde: For McFadden, perseverance is a family affair
Pat Forde of ESPN.com writes that Darren McFadden has overcome obstacles to emerge as a Heisman favorite, but turning difficulties into something uplifting is a family affair.
Why Arkansas’ Darren McFadden Does’ Not Deserve the Heisman
Not everyone thinks Darren McFadden deserves the Heisman. Zander Freund of the Bleacher Report.com thinks the honor goes to Florida’s Tim Tebow.
On playing against USC his sophomore year despite suffering from a toe injury:
"It might not have been a good thing to play, but I told myself I was going to play. I don't think that toe got right until the fourth or fifth game of the season. I had to ice it after every practice."
After tying the SEC single-game rushing mark with a 312 yard performance against South Carolina in 2007:
"I took this game to heart, and gave it my all. I felt that by the fourth quarter we were able to get our game together and finish it to the best of our capabilities."
On his toes crossing over each other on both of his feet:
“I don’t have pretty feet.”