McFadden's Busy Week Could Include Heisman

FAYETTEVILLE -- Darren McFadden didn't know how long his trip would last or even where he was headed this week. So he planned to pack a suitcase with clothes for both warm and cold weather.

He also thought it would be a good idea to bring along a few suits -- just in case he should need more than one while he's away.

"I'm going to take a couple of them down there with me," McFadden said.

Over the next few days, Arkansas' star running back can expect to have a busy schedule that might have him flying to opposite ends of the East Coast, doing countless interviews and maybe giving an acceptance speech or two.

McFadden will leave today for Orlando, where he'll be joined by Michigan's Mike Hart and West Virginia's Steve Slaton as finalists for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation's top running back. The winner will be announced live on ESPN at 6 p.m. Thursday.

But before then, McFadden will find out whether those long sleeves he packed were needed. The Little Rock native is among a handful of players who could be named a Heisman Trophy finalist around 5 p.m. today on ESPN's SportsCenter.

If McFadden is selected -- which seems all but certain -- he'll fly from Orlando to New York City on Friday morning to arrive in time for Saturday's 7 p.m. Heisman Trophy presentation.

And as if the sophomore wasn't busy enough, he has to take final exams this week.

"It's just a lot of things going on right now. I've got to go to Orlando and then I'm hoping I get to go to New York. But I don't know for sure right now," McFadden said, wearing a gray T-shirt with the saying, "Take What Is Yours" written across the front in yellow lettering.

"So right now, I'm just trying to stay focused and get done with the last couple days of finals, get my schoolwork out of the way and then start getting ready for the bowl game."

McFadden has never visited New York City, and Arkansas has never had a player get invited to the Big Apple as a Heisman candidate. But the 6-foot-2, 212-pound sophomore seems poised to be the first after putting together a strong push to be considered among college football's top players.

Though hampered early in the season by a severe toe injury, McFadden found his stride and finished the regular season as the Southeastern Conference's leading rusher with 1,558 yards and 14 touchdowns.

He was named the SEC's offensive player of the year by the Associated Press on Monday and a unanimous selection for the All-SEC coaches football team on Tuesday.

In addition, McFadden has shown the type of versatility that Heisman voters like to see by passing for three touchdowns, catching a pass for a touchdown and returning a kickoff 92 yards for another score.

A day after Arkansas' 63-7 win over Southeast Missouri State on Oct. 14, coach Houston Nutt made the bold statement that he thought his running back would be a Heisman candidate this season.

"Once that fourth (and) fifth game hit, I knew, 'Hey, he's a difference maker,'" Nutt said. "I saw the other candidates, and he's as good as they are, if not better."

Nutt said the attention McFadden has generated during his Heisman push this season has had a big impact on recruiting, and it would only grow more if the sophomore got invited to New York City as a finalist.

"What it does is it immediately puts Arkansas on a stage with 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds that (say), 'Hey, I want to be like that,'" Nutt said. "'... I can be a Heisman Trophy winner or a possible candidate by going to Arkansas.'"

McFadden said he believes Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith already has locked up this year's Heisman Trophy. Still, the Little Rock native hopes to be named among the likely five finalists for the award.

"It would be a great honor to be one of the top college players in the nation," McFadden said. "It would just be a great honor to even get to be there."

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