McFadden Named Nation's Best Running Back

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas running back Darren McFadden can add another title to his name and another trophy to his growing collection of hardware.

McFadden was named Thursday night as the winner of the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back. He's the first Arkansas player to win the award, and the first Southeastern Conference tailback to take home the trophy since Georgia's Garrison Hearst in 1992.

Michigan's Mike Hart and West Virginia's Steve Slaton were also being considered for the Doak Walker Award. But much of the suspense over who would win the trophy was removed Wednesday night when McFadden was the only running back to be named as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

"It's just like a dream come true," McFadden said after being named the Doak Walker Award winner during ESPN's Home Depot College Football Awards Show in Orlando, Fla. "But I've got to thank all my teammates and coaches and family because I couldn't do this without them."

McFadden led the SEC in rushing with 1,558 yards and 14 touchdowns, and the Little Rock native made a strong push for both the Doak Walker Award and the Heisman by rushing for 739 yards and six touchdowns over his final five games.

Arkansas' fight song was played Thursday night as McFadden, wearing a black suit with a red shirt underneath, walked on stage to accept the Doak Walker Award from ESPN commentator Chris Fowler.

It was the latest honor for McFadden this week. He was named Monday as the Associated Press' SEC offensive player of the year, and the league crowned the 6-foot-2, 212-pound sophomore its offensive player of the year on Wednesday.

McFadden, along with Arkansas running backs coach Danny Nutt, will fly this morning from Orlando to New York City for Saturday's Heisman Trophy ceremony (7 p.m. ESPN).

McFadden is considered a long shot, though, to beat out either Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith or Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn for the Heisman. In perhaps a preview of the award, Smith edged Quinn for the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's best quarterback on Thursday. But Quinn won the Maxwell Award as college football's top player.

Earlier this week, McFadden said he thought he had a good chance of winning the Doak Walker Award over Hart and Slaton.

Slaton rushed for 1,733 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Hart finished second in the Big Ten with 1,515 and 14 touchdowns for the No. 3 Wolverines.

"With those guys, I know they're great running backs, but I feel like I should have a good chance of winning it," McFadden said. "I feel like pretty much we all have the opportunity to win things, so I'm just going down there with high hopes."

McFadden will be presented the Doak Walker Award at a banquet in Dallas on Feb. 15.

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