McFadden Catches Heisman Voters' Attention

FAYETTEVILLE -- There is no reason for Darren McFadden to get fitted for a suit. He hasn't been invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony just yet.

Arkansas' running back doesn't need to start writing a speech or wondering what it would be like to visit New York City in December, either.

There are no guarantees that McFadden will even be among the select few who'll be seated in the Nokia Theatre on Dec. 9, hoping to hear his name called.

Heisman Trophy ballots aren't due until 4 p.m. Dec. 6. That's also the same day that the finalists for college football's most coveted individual award will be announced.

No. 5 Arkansas has two more games to play before then, and McFadden's performance in either today's 1:30 p.m. showdown against No. 9 LSU or next Saturday's Southeastern Conference Championship Game could go a long way to determining whether the sophomore becomes a Heisman finalist.

But according to several Heisman voters who live outside Arkansas, it appears McFadden has a good chance of getting invited to New York City, an honor which is saved for only those players with the best chances of winning the award.

"Anybody who's watching college football and isn't just getting caught up in the hype will realize that (McFadden) is probably one of the three best players in the country," said sports reporter Michael Dirocco, a Heisman voter who covers Florida for The Florida Times-Union.

McFadden's chances of winning the Heisman Trophy this year appear slim, even if he has big games against LSU and Florida.

Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith might have solidified his place as this year's Heisman winner by guiding the Buckeyes to a 42-39 win over No. 2 Michigan on Saturday. The victory capped an undefeated regular season for top-ranked OSU.

But McFadden could likely finish as one of the top two or three runner-ups for the award. It just depends on how the voters see it.

"The only thing that I can say for sure is Troy Smith is No. 1 (on my ballot)," said Bob Fiscella, a sports anchor for FSN Sports who has a vote for the Heisman. "McFadden is definitely in the handful of guys that I'm looking at (as runner-ups)."

But things can change. Like other Heisman voters contacted this week, Fiscella said he'll wait until after all conference championship games have been played before casting his vote.

The Heisman Trophy winner is determined by 924 votes, 870 of which come from media members. Fifty-three former Heisman winners also get a vote, and there is one fan vote taken into account.

Voters fill out their ballots by ranking their top three choices in order of who they think should win the award. For McFadden to get invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in Times Square, his name must appear on enough ballots.

"He's on my top three," Dirocco said, adding that he currently has the Arkansas running back second on his ballot behind Smith.

Other voters aren't as certain yet.

One longtime Heisman voter, who asked not to be identified, said he has penciled Smith and Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn on his ballot, though he's not sure yet in what order. McFadden could get the nod over West Virginia running Steve Slaton and Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson for the No. 3 spot on his ballot with big games against LSU and Florida.

Before this season, no Arkansas player had gotten as much attention for the Heisman as McFadden. Razorback fans started a "tongue-in-cheek" campaign for linebacker Mike Boschetti in 1970, but it didn't get him far -- at least not to New York City.

But McFadden has made a late push to be considered a serious Heisman contender.

Over the last three games, the Little Rock native has rushed for 484 yards and four touchdowns, as well as returning a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and throwing a 12-yard strike to wide receiver Marcus Monk in the end zone.

Arkansas officials started a McFadden Heisman campaign late last week by sending out postcards featuring a picture of the running back with the words, "D-Mac Fits The Mold," to nearly 1,000 media members.

"It's real flattering," McFadden said this week. "I can't say I don't think about (the Heisman) often. It's in the back of my mind, and I just think about it every now and then. But it's just something that I'm not focused on right now."

As many as six finalists and as few as three can get invited to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

Last year, it was essentially a three-man Heisman race between Texas quarterback Vince Young, USC quarterback Matt Leinart (who had won the award the previous year) and USC running back Reggie Bush (the eventual winner). They were the only finalists invited to New York City.

But this year's race seems to be more wide open. Though Smith and Quinn appear to be the favorites to win the award, McFadden, Slaton and Johnson are among those vying to be finalists.

Asked what it would mean to simply be invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony, McFadden said, "It would just be a great feeling."

But the Razorbacks still have two games remaining, and anything is possible when it comes to Heisman voters. It should be interesting.

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