McFadden Gets Special Treatment At Media Day
For six of the eight players who faced questions from reporters, the drill was the same. Two tables were set up for them in opposite corners of a Wynfrey Hotel ballroom, the idea being that two players from the same team could conduct interviews simultaneously.
Arkansas' session, the first of the day, went differently. The overwhelming demand for the 2006 Heisman Trophy runner-up prompted SEC officials to improvise.
Just after Arkansas coach Houston Nutt addressed the media, junior running back Darren McFadden strolled past the corner table and sat down at a table in the front of the room. McFadden plopped down next to the podium where the SEC's coaches spoke and spent nearly 20 minutes responding to questions.
Meanwhile, in an adjoining room, senior linebacker Weston Dacus spoke with a substantially smaller gathering. Dacus wasn't jealous. He wasn't agitated or annoyed. To the contrary, Dacus was thrilled by the heightened focus on McFadden.
"It's weird playing next to a guy who's one of the most popular players in college football right now," Dacus said. "I give him a lot of respect for it, and he's done a lot for the program. It's exciting to get all the attention that Darren has brought to the school.
"We've kind of soaked it in. It's gotten to the point where we're used to it."
Whether the Razorbacks' reigning Doak Walker Award winner is accustomed to the increased attention and lack of privacy is up for debate. But McFadden undoubtedly has progressed.
While short with most of his answers, McFadden seemed more at ease than ever as he addressed several topics. He even drew laughs with his response to a light-hearted question about his costume for Halloween.
Not satisfied with McFadden's two-word retort, the reporter wondered what kind of clown McFadden was.
"A big one," McFadden said, chuckling at the subject.
His easy-going attitude was far different from his previous dealings with the media. At times last season, McFadden would try to skip out on interviews by hopping on the trainers' cart. He cringed at having to deal with curious reporters on a weekly basis.
Now, McFadden realizes the responsibilities that go along with the stature of someone who rushed for 2,760 yards in his first two seasons. He has appeared on the cover of around a dozen college football preview magazines. He has drawn interview requests from publications in all areas of the country. And he has handled it all with an attitude that has improved gradually.
"With the media attention, it's something I don't think you can prepare for," McFadden said. "It's something you just have to get used to and just take it in stride as life goes on."
Nutt has noticed the alteration in McFadden's approach.
"You know, he's gotten better," Nutt said. "He has really loosened up. I mean, he's a fun-loving guy that has gotten better with each interview. I'm so proud of the way he's handled things."
Nutt also complimented McFadden on how he has dealt with his sudden fame, exemplified by the swarm of onlookers that asked for his autograph in the Winfrey lobby.
"He can't go home to Little Rock, his hometown, and go to the mall without getting bombarded for three or four hours," Nutt said. "He's the type of person (who) won't tell anyone no. He won't tell one person no. That's what you love about him."
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