Going Out Together

FAYETTEVILLE — Darren McFadden and Felix Jones arrived at Arkansas as freshmen in 2005, and they've been linked ever since.

They've appeared together in magazines. They've graced the cover of Arkansas' football media guide. And they've dressed up as characters from The Flintstones for Halloween.

But most noticeably, McFadden and Jones have coexisted in the same backfield, forming one of college football's most dangerous running back tandems.

So it was only fitting that the two juniors chose to hold a joint news conference Monday afternoon to announce their decisions to leave school early and enter April's NFL Draft.

"I feel like every day we were together, we got closer and closer as friends. I feel like brothers because we've grown so close," McFadden said, sitting next to Jones in Arkansas' team meeting room. "So I felt like it was very important for us to do this (together)."

McFadden's decision to forego his final year of college eligibility has been expected for months, and there wasn't much doubt over the past few days that Jones would join his close friend in the NFL.

Both running backs have been projected as first-round picks. And the chance to earn millions while fulfilling their dreams of playing in the NFL was too good for either to pass up.

"After I went through my year this year, I started to feel like my opportunities (to go pro) were getting better and better," Jones said. "I just sat down for these past few weeks with my family. We talked about things, and I made my decision.

"And I'm happy with it."

McFadden admitted his decision to leave for the NFL was a no-brainer.

The two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up has rewritten Arkansas' rushing record book over the past three seasons, and he has been projected as a top 5 draft pick.

There has even been talk that McFadden could work his way into being the No. 1 overall selection. Either way, the Little Rock native is expected to be the highest Razorback drafted in the last 50 years.

Defensive end Billy Ray Smith Jr. was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the fifth pick in the 1983 draft.

"For me, I just want to go play in the NFL, whether I went No. 1 or dead last," McFadden said. "It would be the same feeling for me."

Jones said he was also projected as a first-round pick by the NFL draft advisory committee. But the Tulsa native will likely be selected toward the end of the first round.

Neither running back has signed with an agent yet, but both McFadden and Jones said they wanted to weigh their options before signing with anyone.

They also plan to spend the upcoming weeks preparing for the NFL Combine in late November. Not surprisingly, they talked about working out together in Dallas.

While the decisions by McFadden and Jones were expected, it forces new Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino to rebuild without the two most productive running backs in school history.

"I talked with them often. Unequivocally, they had our total support in everything they did," Arkansas running backs coach Tim Horton said Monday. "We want what's best for kids. At this point in time in their lives, I think this is the best decision for them.

"We support them 100 percent."

McFadden ends his career as the Razorbacks' all-time leading rusher with 4,590 yards, and his 41 rushing touchdowns rank second in school history. Jones, meanwhile, has gained 2,956 yards and 20 touchdowns over the past three seasons.

Together, they made it difficult for opposing defenses to stop them. Teams had to worry about containing Arkansas' dynamic duo, instead of just focusing on shutting down one All-American runner.

Monday was perhaps their final moment together.

After reading a prepared statement, in which he thanked his coaches and Arkansas' fans, McFadden stopped to let Jones have the microphone.

"I guess that will be the last handoff (I get) from D-Mac," Jones said, smiling.

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